Grand Jury Report: San Francisco Whistleblower Program is Flawed

A grand jury report released Monday, July 11th, found that San Francisco’s whistleblower program is riddled with shortcomings. The whistleblower program is designed to protect public interest by encouraging employees to disclose waste, fraud, and abuse. However, the report concluded that the program: “angers and confuses whistleblowers,” “lacks an appeals system,” “does not foster transparency,” “lacks a comprehensive tracking system,” “deals with mostly low-level issues,” and “fails to create effective and independent oversight.” These program characteristics ultimately discourage any act of whistleblowing. According to the report by ABC San Francisco’s investigative team, Doctors Derek Kerr and Maria Rivero reported the misuse of a hospital’s “Patient Gift Fund,” which was intended to improve the hospital patients’ comfort. Instead, it was spent on “elaborate staff parties and travel.” Doctor Kerr was subsequently laid off and replaced. Doctor Rivero resigned under pressure and claimed that “anybody in their right mind would never go to (the whistleblower program).” Like the grand jury, Doctor Kerr believes the whistleblower program has “become a threat to whistleblowers.”

Ben Rosenfeld, the City Controller who oversees San Francisco’s whistleblower program, stated that although “there’s room for improvement,” the report did not cover the context by which his office has recovered taxpayer funds in the over 2,000 whistleblower cases since 2004. However, the grand jury concluded overall that the “whistleblower program in its current form has yielded underwhelming results as measured in dollars and cents.”

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