John Kostyack, the executive director of the National Whistleblower Center (NWC), contextualized the comments of the keynote speakers at the National Whistleblower Day Celebration by quoting the late Representative John Lewis: “Get in good trouble. Get in necessary trouble and help redeem the soul of America.” Kostyack pointed out that this is what all whistleblowers do when they stand up for what is right, at the cost of personal safety and security. The celebration, held virtually last week, featured a panel with keynote speeches about the importance of whistleblowing from Congresswoman Speier (D-CA), Senator Grassley (R-IA), and Lorenzo Davis, Esq, a Chicago police whistleblower. All three emphasized the critical role that whistleblowers play in the crises that the U.S. is facing.
Lorenzo Davis, Esq told his story of whistleblower discrimination and retaliation from his time as a Chicago Police Commander, emphasizing the importance of calling out injustice when you see it. Told by his commanding officer in 2012, that he should classify a group of police shootings as “justified” when he believed that they were not, Davis acted with his conscience and refused. Soon after, he was terminated by the department. Davis filed a wrongful termination retaliation case against the department, and a jury found in his favor, awarding him $2.8 million at the department’s expense.
Congresswoman Speier continued with the theme of “getting into good trouble,” saying that most whistleblowers do exactly what Representative Lewis did by standing up for what they believed in the face of adversity. She outlined a bill she co-authored and introduced to Congress on June 15, the COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act. This bill aims to expand protections for private and federal employees that blow the whistle when they see fraud. Congresswoman Speier addressed a specific type of corporate fraud related to COVID-19, where multiple businesses owned by a single entity apply separately for COVID-19 relief loans intended for small businesses. This type of fraud harms the overall effort to support small businesses as the country faces a crisis. Congresswoman Speier also expressed her concern about President Trump’s treatment of whistleblowers. Discounting and firing whistleblowers from his administration sets the example that the government will not protect whistleblowers who stand up to report injustice or fraud. The Congresswoman ended her remarks by saying: “If I did nothing else in my life but could say that I blew the whistle on some form of fraud or abuse, I will feel that I will have done something for my country, and I hope every whistleblower feels like that.”
Senator Grassley then spoke about his proposed bill to strengthen the False Claims Act to deal with the fraud of the COVID-19 era.