Employee chooses to expose illegal, unethical, or fraudulent practices within the organization
Range in severity
Leaking the information to the police, media, or appropriate authorities
Personal ethical code
Prior experiences and rationale
Intention – to explore the act of whistleblowing, the motivation behind it, and its effects on government as seen in theoretical concepts of discretion, whistle blowing legislation, as well as an evaluation of administrative ethics principles
Evaluate strengths and weaknesses
Make recommendations for future legislation and administrative reforms of managing whistle blowing in government
Famous Whistleblowers Joseph C. Wilson Valerie Plame Case Mark Felt Deep Throat Linda Tripp Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal
Whistleblowing in Government
Someone whose actions are meant to protect others not themselves, looking first towards the framework within the organization to find a means to rectify the situation, and holding the proof any person with reasonable understanding could be convinced (Alford 2001)
Motivation Behind Whistleblowing
Unethical and illegal behavior occurs at all levels and sectors.
Direct conflict with an inner ethical code
Forced to choose and reconcile this tension
Discretionary act – best appropriate option to resolve this friction
Implicit and explicit reasons of discretion
Government whistleblowers are not just any whistleblower…
Regard for public good
Higher code of principles
Driven to serve a cause higher than the self
Corruption – “cooperative crime” (deLeon 2005)
Whistleblowing – self perseverance vs. “doing the right thing”
Motivations – public money, public opinion, and a duty to societal values
“ The Making of a Whistleblower and the Importance of Ethical Autonomy: James F. Alderson,” Curtis Ventriss and Shane M. Barney
James Alderson – Financial officer at a hospital. Whistleblower
Quorum Health Group - 1990
Promised large financial gains through the federal government’s cost reporting system
Alderson prepare hospital’s cost report
Quorum request two reports
1st report had largest amount possible for reimbursements
2nd report was a back-up with more modest figures
Alderson refuses – Fired and found a new job
Researched Quorum and its parent company, Columbia Healthcare/HCA Healthcare
- Sent letter to U.S. Attorney General Marie O’Connell
- O’Connell subpoenaed Quorum cost reports
- Alderson/Medicare auditor went over the reports
- Alderson was correct
Companies instituted systematic fraud scam of the Medicare/Medicaid system
Involving more than 200 hospitals and 37 states
Continued, despite initial strong opposition from government investigators/representatives
Quorum/Columbia – paid $745 million back to the government and $77.5 million to Alderson
Government and Ethics
Rescuer vs. Whistleblower “Whistleblowers and the Narrative of Ethics” Fred C. Alford
Risk their lives
Form decisions based on attachment to people and their surroundings
Forms an alliance with the person they rescue
Form attachment to an ideal or code of ethics
Attached to the actions involved, not the people
Ethics that will change your reality
Universal set of moral codes that remains constant
“ Common human reason” – humans are innately hard-wired to distinguish between right and wrong (Thorpe 2007)
The idea of self is the individual guiding principles present within every one
“ Supererogatory acts” – actions or decisions which go beyond duty and do not encompass a set of universal moral principles to guide an individual (Jokic 2002)
Rescuer morality – are attached to the person not to a moral code of right and wrong
Whistleblower – is attached to an ideal and held to a moral obligation
“ Choiceless choice” theory
Whistleblower’s perception that they no longer own their choices
These choices are already decided by an inner code of ethics and one of the four narratives behind their reasoning
Four Narratives - one voice tells the other voice there is no choice (Alford 2001)
Imagined consequences – imagination foresees the consequences of the corrupt action
Inclination to historical moment - awareness of one’s role as a central point in the course of events
Victim identification – victim’s fight becomes his or her own fight
Inability to “double” – can no longer co-exist in two realities
Government Guerrillas and Whistleblowers
Ability to rationalize their actions
Power to expose corruption discretely
Capacity to justify themselves as dissenters
Government employees possess a great amount of discretion and authority in carrying out the public good – how can we be sure that their actions as whistleblowers fall within an ethical scope?
How do we hold government guerrillas accountable when they have cloaked actions?
Three Main Obligations
Duty to serve the nation
Democratic process to serve people’s will
A sense to uphold specific professional code ethics
A principle that neither family nor friends should surpass one’s obligation as a public servant
Government employees pledge an oath to uphold the principles found in the Constitution
Provides whistleblowers with specific protections given to all citizens, including government workers
First Amendment – freedom of speech
Fourteenth Amendment – due process of law
Above all other laws, policies, or agency procedures, and as such public employees have an obligation to uphold its principles before any other public policy or law is passed down to them. (Rohr 1998)
Legislation - CRSA
Civil Service Reform Act of 1979 – CRSA
Established the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC)
Charged with protecting federal whistleblowers
Investigates and eliminates prohibited personnel practices
Handles whistleblower disclosures
Protects the service members’ reemployment rights.
Authority to investigate and prosecute these complaints through its Complaints Examining Unit (United States Office of Special Counsel 2002)
Whistleblower protection extended to include those disclosures which proved misconduct, a major misuse of funds or authority, and a direct danger to public safety and health (Fong 1991)
Legislation Continued WPA, No FEAR, and WPEA
Whistleblower Protection Act in 1989 – WPA
Increased protection from retaliation for federal whistleblowers
Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 – No FEAR Act
Established guidelines for federal agencies to disseminate notice of the Act to federal employees, former employees, and applicants for employment.
Agencies must post certain statistical data on the agency website to show current and past actions brought against the agency based on the No FEAR Act.
Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007 – WPEA
Amended the WPA 1989
Expanded whistleblower protections to “certain national security, government contractor, and science-based agency whistleblowers,” as well as augmenting current whistleblower protections for all federal civil servants (Whitaker 2007)
Supreme Court Case Law
Pickering v. Board of Education
Two-prong test to decide when a public employee was protected by the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech over matters of “public concern” (Sasser 2007)
Is the matter up for public concern?
If yes, the Court would have to balance the interests of the government representative as a citizen to speak out versus the ability of the agency to effectively manage the office and ensure strong harmonious working relationships (Drachler 2008)
Garcetti v. Ceballos
Ceballos filed suit under 42 U.S. §1983 against Garcetti for violating his First Amendment right to free speech and the Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.
Pickering two-prong test applied
He was not acting as a citizen strictly out of public concern, but in his role as a deputy district attorney, and so Garcetti could not be held liable under 42 U.S. §1983 (Wenell 2007)
Government workers as second-class citizens
John Rohr - “Citizenship and the Professional Public Servant”
Provides a way to understand the Supreme Court decision in Garcetti
Public servants have a great deal of power and responsibility, which balances the limitations of rulings such as Garcetti because the public trust requires a person to answer to a higher calling.
Hatch Act – restricts political activity by public servants while performing in their official capacities.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Strongest and most uniting code of ethics
Public administrators pledge an oath
Steadfast and objective
Minimal, but vague language leaves conflicting viewpoints on literal meanings and intents
Supreme Court rulings make the law relevant and timely, while staying true to the Constitution
The process allows for whistleblower protections to continue to evolve relevant to the times
With several reforms, building upon previous legislative acts, these negate to clean up the portions of the earlier laws
Maintains a check on the legislative power
Ensures that the public administrator does not become a fourth branch of government
Becomes a case by case basis
More than understanding the differences between right and wrong.
The act of doing right or wrong
Often difficult to identify a meaning
Subjective to the individual
Determined through discretion
Administrative discretion – public administrator’s capacity to employ ethical approaches relevant to the situation, in order to decide among various alternative solutions that arise while working in the organization
All public employees have a duty to uphold the Constitution, abide by specific legislation with regard to Supreme Court decisions
Whistleblowers can fulfill this obligation to the public by understanding the ethical process as it relates to him or her, using guerrilla government when necessary, and acting always in the good of the people, not for selfish gain or ignorant bliss
Public employees need to have a high regard for their position and recognize the power they have to meet public expectations for clean, upright, and transparent government
Government worker ought to strive to be constitutionally competent
Whistleblowing as a last resort, and in accordance with proper legislative guidelines for reporting corrupt and illegal acts
Whistleblowing legislation needs to restructure/condense/clean-up these reform acts, so that all players speak the same legal code
Legislative reform needs to account for Supreme Court rulings such as Pickering and Garcetti
Have any of you experienced corrupt behavior at a job? What did you do?
If faced with an ethical dilemma or came upon a form of corruption in your agency, department, or organization that caused the public at large a severe disservice, health risk, etc. what would you do?
Any other questions?
Alford, C. Fred. (2001). Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power . Ithaca: Cornell.
Alford, C. Fred. (2001). Whistleblowers and the Narrative of Ethics. Journal of Social Philosophy , 32(3), 402-418. Retrieved October 2, 2008 from Blackwell-Synergy
Drachsler, David A. (2008). Public Employee Whistleblowers After Garcetti v. Ceballos. Labor Law Journal, 59(2 ), 201-208. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from ABI/INFORM Global database.
deLeon, Peter. (2005). Cowboys and the New Public Management. In Ethics in Public Management , ed. H. George Frederickson and Richard K. Ghere, 206. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.
Ventriss, Curtis and Shane M. Barney. (2003). The Making of a Whistleblower and the Importance of Ethical Autonomy: James F. Alderson. Public Integrity , (5) 4, 355-368. Retrieved on October 2, 2008, from ABI/INFORM Global database. Thorpe 2007, 461
Fisher, Louis. (2005). “National Security Whistleblowers.” CRS Report for Congress by Federation of American Scientists. (December 30, 2005). Congressional Research Service publications. Retrieved on November 2, 2008, from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33215.pdf
Fong, Bruce D. (1991). Whistleblower Protection and the Office of Special Counsel: The Development of Reprisal Law in the 1980s. American University Law Review, 20 . Retrieved on September 15, 2008, from LexisNexis Academic.
Jokic, Aleksandar. (2002). Supererogation and Moral Luck: Two Problems for Kant, One Solution. Journal of Value Inquiry , 36(2-3), 221-33. Retrieved November 2, 2008 from ABI/INFORM Global database.
Kennedy, Caroline. (2005) United States Constitution: What It Says, What It Means: A Hip Pocket Guide . New York: Oxford Press.
O’Leary, Rosemary. 2006. The Ethics of Dissent: Managing Guerrilla Government . Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.
Rohr, John. (1998). Public Service, Ethics, and Constitutional Practice . Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press.
Rohr, John, Chandler, Ralph Clark. (1984). Civil Servants and Second-Class Citizens/Response/Discussion. Public Administration Review: Special Issue 44(135) Retrieved on November 2, 2008 from ABI/INFORM Global database.
Sasser, Jamie. (2007). The Silenced Citizens: The Post-Garcetti Landscape for Public Sector Employees Working in National Security. University of Richmond Law Review, 41 . Retrieved on September 15, 2008, from LexisNexis Academic.
Thorpe, Lucas. (2006). The Point of Studying Ethics According to Kant. Journal of Value Inquiry , 40(4), 461. Retrieved November 2, 2008 from ABI/INFORM Global database.
United States Department of State: Office of Attorney recruitment and Management. (2006)
No Fear Act . Retrieved on November 2, 2008, from http://www.state.gov/s/ocr/rls/76101.htm
United States Department of Treasury. (2008). No FEAR Act . Retrieved on November 2, 2008,
From http:// www.ustreas.gov/nofearact /
United States Government Printing Office. (2002) Notification and Federal Employee
Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 . Retrieved on November 2, 2008, from http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname =107_cong_public_laws&docid=f:publ174.pdf
United States Office of Special Counsel. (2002). The Role of the U.S. Office of Special Council .
Retrieved on September 13, 2008, from http:// www.osc.gov/documents/pubs/oscrole.pdf
Whitaker, L. Paige. (2007). CRS Report for Congress by Federation of American Scientists.
(March 12, 2007). The Whistleblower Protection Act: An Overview . Congressional Research Service publications. Retrieved on September 13, 2008, from http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33918.pdf Waxman 2007
Wenell, Julie A. (2007). Garcetti v. Ceballos: Stifling the First Amendment in the Public Workplace. William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, 16 . Retrieved on September 15, 2008, from LexisNexis Academic.