Fun with whistleblowers! Who’s callin’ out misbehavin’ bureaucrats?

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By G.W. Schulz

That’s right friends! It’s time again for another trip to the section of the local controller’s Web site containing summaries of the whistleblower complaints received by the city over the last several months. The city closed 153 complaints with investigations out of 313 contacts during the ’06 fiscal year.

Who’s stashing beer in a city-owned vehicle? Who’s doin’ dope on the job?

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When I first began reporting full time at the Guardian last year, former staff writer A.C. Thompson showed me where to find the controller’s biannual reports listing some of the investigations that office regularly conducted in response to calls from whistleblowers.

Hungry reporters have scandalous love affairs with pretty much anything coming out of their local controller’s office. It’s a great place to find story ideas, from how much city managers are getting paid to who’s receiving giant contracts to plant trees in city parks and build train stations.

At the time, A.C. and I tried to sunshine documents directly related to the whistleblower investigations, but after haggling with the controller’s office a bit, they finally told us that such a release could potentially compromise the otherwise anonymous identities of the callers. That’s pretty reasonable, actually, and you can still go straight to the agency from which the allegations originated and sunshine info that way. (Let us know if you find anything, and as always, don’t hesitate to bring your whistle straight to the Guardian’s headquarters at 135 Mississippi St. and blow it loud and proud!)

For now, we’ll bring you a summary of the complaints from the city’s newest report:

1) The controller received a complaint that Juvenile Probation employees were forcing young detainees to wash their personal laundry. Investigators found that the complaint had merit. Employees involved were verbally warned (the first level of discipline from the city) and required to sign a statement acknowledging that they were now aware it was illegal to use city resources for such personal activities.

2) A complainant reported that a Department of Building Inspection vehicle was parked in front of their offices with a case of beer on the front seat. Investigators found that the complaint had merit, and the employee was forced to show a receipt confirming that he’d purchased the beer during his lunch hour. He was warned about using city vehicles for personal purposes. Oh yeah, it was non-alcoholic beer. Party on, DBI!

3) Several school district vehicles have been parking in the Noe Valley business district while employees take lengthy brakes, a complainant alleged, doing God knows what. Watching yoga moms diligently push their babies around in those big-wheeled marathon strollers? During a resulting investigation, one district car was found parked in a disabled slot. The employees were caught with photographs and issued written warnings.

4) A complainant alleged that a MUNI employee was taking his city van home and working on personal projects for several hours a day. Perhaps the committed employee was simply scheming ideas on his personal crapper for making the T-Third line run more smoothly? Peskin probably formulated his recent MUNI reform efforts on the pooper. If it works, why hate on them for doing it at home? The complaint was found to have merit, nonetheless, and the employee’s supervisor gave him verbal warnings.

5) A Rec and Park employee was reported for “using an illegal substance during work hours, and was frequently absent without authorization.” Are mushrooms illegal if they grow naturally in the city’s parks? Even if they were, it wouldn’t have been enough to save the employee’s job. “Employee has been terminated.”

We’re withholding one of the complaints. It’s so good, we gotta turn it into a story. Don’t worry, you’ll see it soon, or go check it out online. We wish everyone loved the controller’s office as much as we do.

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