Fun with whistleblowers!

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By G.W. Schulz

Every six months or so, the San Francisco Controller’s Office releases a summary of the numerous whistleblower complaints it receives from citizens and municipal employees alike.

No names are attached, unfortunately. And attempts by the Guardian in the past to obtain details of the complaints and resulting investigations through sunshine requests were rebuffed by the controller. Ed Harrington’s office argued that publicity might inhibit potential whistleblowers from stepping forward.

But for now, at least, we’ve got a good idea of which city and county offices are housing ill-behaved employees and what's been done to stop them.

First up? One whistleblower complained that a San Francisco General Hospital employee was stealing hospital supplies “for several months.” Sure enough, the employee was trailed for a while by SFGH security and caught with three bags of hospital supplies as alleged. (Unfortunately the summaries are vague. Who knows what was in the bags? Could have been anything from towels to blood.) The employee was fired, or in GovSpeak “immediately placed on leave pending discipline/termination and subsequently resigned with an unsatisfactory service notation in the personnel record.”

What’s next? One complainant watched a city vehicle pull up to a pot club and the driver enter the club. The truck was assigned to DPW, and according to the report, “Complaint had merit. Disciplinary action taken against the employee.” Smoke up, friend! Doesn’t the city technically observe the right of individuals to purchase and ingest medicinal marijuana? What if the employee was just picking up a prescription? Why the disciplinary action? Still funny!

Another complainant reported to the city with pictures and all that a city truck had parked in front of a fire hydrant for an hour and a half on a Sunday. The complaint had merit and the employee was disciplined. Maybe free “fire-hydrant parking” can be included as a benefit in the next round of union contracts city employees negotiate with human resources.

One complainant caught a local resident doing big-time renovations to their home while severely undervaluing the work with the Department of Building Inspection. Turns out the value of the construction had to be changed from $90,000 to $350,000. The homeowner was hit with an additional $5,809 in fees. If anyone knows who the homeowner was, feel free to let us know.

Yet another complainant reported that a large “piece of obsolete equipment belonging to the Department of Public Health was recently dismantled and the copper and other parts were sold for scrap, which is standard procedure.” But instead of putting the money in an appropriate DPH account, the money was going to a safe stored at the work location and was being used for “inappropriate work-related activities.” When the supes cut your budget, just store some extra cash off the books! Turns out the city recovered nearly $12,500 in cash and restitution. The manager involved received a one-week suspension.

Just like the city and county of San Francisco, the Bay Guardian encourages readers to blow the whistle when they believe anyone from either the public or private sectors are bending the rules for either themselves or any institutions they are affiliated with. Remember, the controller doesn’t probe criminal violations, sexual harassment or campaign misconduct. Call us anytime. Keep ‘em clean!

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