#EthicsMatters: Protecting city workers who disclose unlawful activity and wrongdoing

Jorge Luis Lopez, Esq. #EthicsMatters Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners

We hope this important note finds you well …

This #EthicsMatters brief focuses on a critically important proposed County law protecting city workers who disclose unlawful activity and wrongdoing in their cities from retaliation on the job.

Ordinance Relating to Municipal Whistleblowers

On Wednesday, September 4th starting at 9:30 the Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing (Agenda Item #7F) and vote on an ordinance setting minimum standards for cities to enact employee protection ordinances — consistent with the Florida Whistleblower’s Act — and to ensure that city employees who disclose unlawful activity or wrongdoing by a city or independent contractors have effective protections, including confidentiality and protection from retaliation.

Commissioner Sally A. Heyman, is the Prime Sponsor and Co-Sponsors are Commissioner Esteban L. Bovo, Jr. and Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson.

You may tune-in to the Board meeting via Miami-Dade Webcasting — click here.

“Ethics Commission supports whistleblower protection in the municipalities”

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust (COE) on May 8, affirmed support for this proposed ordinance — noting that the “goal is to protect municipal workers who disclose wrongdoing in their cities from retaliation on the job.

The Ethics Commission and Office of Inspector General (OIG) may provide technical support to cities seeking assistance developing processes or procedures for handling complaints of adverse personnel action following reports of wrong-doing.

The proposed ordinance also enables municipal employees who are not satisfied by their city’s process to file a complaint of retaliation for the Ethics Commission to investigate and empowers the OIG to track and oversee municipal compliance with the ordinance.”

Background

In 1994, the County adopted the Employee Protection Ordinance which prohibits the County from retaliating against County employees for disclosing specified information concerning unlawful activity, misfeasance or malfeasance by the County or independent contractors.

In 1996, the County adopted the Whistleblower Ordinance, which currently prohibits the County from retaliating against any person for disclosing specified information concerning unlawful activity, misfeasance or malfeasance by the County or independent contractors.

In 2015, the County expanded the means for employees to provide protected disclosures, to empower employees to take responsibility for an efficient and effective government, and to empower them to safely and securely disclose specified information to authorized local officials.

On October 3, 2017, the County prohibited any employer with 10 or more employees that enters into a contract with the County, from retaliating against any employee or other person for disclosing specified information concerning unlawful activity, misfeasance or malfeasance by employees, agents or independent contractors of County departments.

The proposed law is needed because some of the municipalities within Miami-Dade County may not have adequate employee protection ordinances.

As always, we hope this information is helpful.

Should you have any specific questions concerning unlawful activity, Employee Protection Frequently Asked Questions and ethics laws, please contact the Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.

Stay tuned for future #EthicsMatters with vitally important ethics decisions and regulations.

Warmest Regards,

Jorge Luis Lopez, Esq.
Governmental Affairs Counsel

Leave a Comment