Ta-da, it was announced with great fanfare that the Ethics and Elections Department would be handling ethics and whistleblower complaints from Seattle Public Schools, although the details of the final memo of understanding or contract are being worked out. Is this a good idea? Probably the best idea for the time being because the culture of the district administration is so toxic and dysfunctional that healing themselves is probably not possible.
This is what they say about whistleblower complaints, although in the case of Seattle Schools the final agreement between the district and city would specific how complaints are handled.
New brochure: “Calling All Heroes”.
The City of Seattle Whistleblower Protection Code gives City employees the right to report improper City governmental actions. It also protects employees who make a whistleblower complaint, and gives them recourse if they experience retaliation for doing so. The Code also specifies how and to whom complaints should be filed.
Improper governmental actions are activities undertaken in the performance of official City duties, which:
violate any state, federal, county or City law or rule; or
constitute an abuse of authority; or
create a substantial or specific danger to public health or safety; or
result in a gross waste of public funds. SMC 4.20.850(c)(1)
The Whistleblower Code does not protect all employee complaints. Improper governmental action under this Code does not include personnel actions or authorized action with which an employee simply disagrees. Employees may not report privileged information or their own wrongdoings and expect protection from discipline. SMC 4.20.850(C)(2)
See the Whistleblower Procedures page for details about where to report improper governmental actions as well as how to proceed if you experience retaliation for making a whistleblower complaint. Contact us if you have any questions.
In order for an investigation to start, some one would have to file a complaint and that is the problem in the school district situation. While farming out ethics and whistleblower complaints to the city may make some complainants feel more secure, ultimately this does not change the administrative culture at Seattle Public Schools.
Here are the City of Seattle Ethics and Elections Penalties and again, remember that the district and city are negotiating a memo of understanding.
What punishments can the Commission impose for violating the Code?
Answer: If the Commission determines that a Covered Individual violated the Ethics Code, it may impose a fine of up to $5,000 per violation or three times the value of the violation, order restitution, and/or recommend discipline. Rather than face formal charges and penalties, the Covered Individual may enter into a settlement agreement with the Executive Director, stipulating to pertinent facts and negotiating specific remedies.
In the case of volunteer members of advisory committees, the ceilings on fines depend on the violation. For advisory committee members, the Commission may impose a monetary fine of up to $1,000 for failure to disqualify themselves from matters in which they have financial interests; $250 for failure to disclose apparent impaired judgment in the performance of advisory committee duties; and $5,000 per violation for other violations of the Ethics Code, including improper use of official position for private gain, improper use of City resources, accepting or soliciting items of value, and use or disclosure of confidential information for other than a City purpose.
In each circumstance, the Commission may require reimbursement of damages and costs, and may recommend censure or removal from the committee as well as cancellation of the decision made that the volunteer improperly participated in.
Can the Commission fire me for violating the Code?
Answer: No. The Commission has no authority to discipline employees. Only the hiring authority — in most cases the Department Head — has authority to discipline employees or terminate employment.
Your department does not have to follow the Commission’s recommendation for discipline. If discipline is carried out, personnel procedures for the disciplinary action must be followed and the outcome reported to the Commission.
See the Ethics Code, SMC 4.16.100 or contact the SEEC for more information.
This is the definition of symptom
1. A characteristic sign or indication of the existence of something else: “The affair is a symptom of a global marital disturbance; it is not the disturbance itself” (Maggie Scarf). See Synonyms at sign.
2. A sign or an indication of disorder or disease, especially when experienced by an individual as a change from normal function, sensation, or appearance.
The fact that the district had to had off the investigation of ethics complaints is merely a symptom of problems that the district does not or cannot deal with. It is all hands on deck in the effort to pass the Families and Education Levy. All broom aimed at the carpet which has just been lifted.
This is what moi said in The Drip, Drip, Drip of News: A Forensic Audit of Seattle Schools Is Needed
Many folks claim they have no clue as to what a forensic audit is and even if people could agree on the the exact meaning or semantics of the thing, then what about the $$$$$$ that it might cost???? Moi will simplify the meaning for y’all, “follow the money.” For a really good explanation go to Forensic Audit
Forensic auditing could be defined as the application of auditing skills to situations that have legal consequences….
Applications of Forensic Audit
An obvious example of forensic auditing is the investigation of a fraud or presumptive fraud with a view to gathering evidence that could be presented in a court of law. However, there is an increasing use of auditing skills to prevent fraud by identifying and rectifying situations which could lead to frauds being perpetrated (i.e. risks). It might be useful, therefore, to discuss forensic auditing as being either ’Reactive’ or ‘Proactive ‘.
Proactive forensic auditing
Forensic auditing in this sense could be viewed from different aspects depending on its application, some of which are discussed below:
Forensic auditing can be used either by management or by auditors to carry out general reviews of activities to highlight risks arising either out of fraud or from any other source with the purpose of initiating focussed reviews of particular areas, targeting specific threats to the organisation.
Investigation of allegations
Complaints, allegations in the Press or in Parliament, anonymous tips from employees or others could all in their separate ways require to be adequately addressed by investigation. The techniques of forensic auditing are useful in such cases. This is being cited as proactive because it is widely felt that the existence of a system of investigation in such cases is a significant deterrent to fraud and corruption.
Reactive Forensic Auditing
The objective in case of reactive forensic audit is to investigate cases of suspected fraud so as to prove or disprove the suspicions, and if the suspicions are proven, to identify the persons involved, support the findings by evidence and to present the evidence in an acceptable format in any subsequent disciplinary or criminal proceedings.
In such cases it is important to keep in view the following:
working relations with the investigating and prosecuting agencies
authorisation and control of the audit investigation
documentation of relevant information and safeguarding all prime records pertaining to the case
rules of evidence governing admissibility/authentication of records
evaluation of the evidence to assess whether the case is sustainable
legal advice where appropriate
reporting the findings in a manner that meets legal requirements.
In the case of a forensic audit of Seattle Public Schools there would be two reasons for the audit. One to investigate current and past instances of financial mismanagement. Second, as a diagnostic tool to examine current systems and practices to recommend practices which both deter and uncover potential financial mismanagement and fraud.
The next issue is, of course, where do the $$$$$$ come from to conduct the audit??? Moi is scratching her head. You mean those same foundations and government agencies who to give millions of dollars in grants to agencies where there is no accountability for how their money is actually spent, don’t want to know? You mean that we have “never ask so you don’t have to tell” in school finance??? Heck, they might as well send some $$$$ moi’s way for a weekend in Vegas. We are in a time of constrained budgets and it is more important than ever that dollars designated for the education of children are, gasp, actually used to educate children.
Remember the tag line from Watergate?
Follow the money!
Seattle Schools are acting as they have found a savior for the district in the form of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Department.
- Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Moi posts, you decide.
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