County saw spike in whistleblower complaints



Complaints to a hotline set up to receive anonymous reports of financial waste, fraud, and abuse in the county government more than doubled in the last fiscal year.

According to a new report from the SLO County Auditor Controller's Office, the county's whistleblower hotline saw a 111 percent increase in complaints for the fiscal year 2017-18 when compared with the previous year. However, out of the dozens of complaints the office received, only one of them was substantiated.

BLOWING THE WHISTLE SLO County's whistleblower's hotline experienced a surge in complaints last fiscal year. - FILE PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • File Photo By Steve E. Miller
  • BLOWING THE WHISTLE SLO County's whistleblower's hotline experienced a surge in complaints last fiscal year.

The county established the whistleblower hotline in 2013. It enables county employees and members of the public to call a toll-free hotline or use an online system to anonymously report suspected instances of financial fraud, waste, theft, and mismanagement. Since its inception, the hotline has received more than 137 such reports.

"I think more more people are becoming aware of the hotline," county Auditor Controller Jim Erb told New Times.

In fiscal year 2017-18, the auditor's office fielded a total of 40 complaints from the hotline, up from 19 the previous fiscal year. Of the 40 complaints, 60 percent were submitted online, and 83 percent of them were submitted anonymously. Those included 14 complaints involving alleged misconduct, eight involving possible violations of state or federal regulations, and five involving alleged safety or sanitation violations.

Only a complaint about a county employee using a cellphone while driving was substantiated. The bulk of the remaining complaints were referred to various county department heads for follow-up.

"We get a lot of complaints about employee misconduct," Erb said. "We pass them on to the department heads and they can evaluate whether it's a problem or not."

Erb said that individuals who want to report to the hotline should try to give as much information as possible.

"We need as much detail as they can provide," he said.

To report to the county's whistleblower hotline, call (855) 326-9623 or go to Δ


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