A whistleblowing website and new ethics curriculum for San Mateo County employees will help restore some of the public’s faith which has been tarnished by repeated incidents of fraud and abuse, according to the county supervisor who first suggested them.
"So many people have just given up on government these days,” said Supervisor Dave Pine. "It just sours people.”
On Tuesday, Pine and Supervisor Don Horsley suggested the enhancements to the county’s whistleblower process and the entire Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to allocate $65,400 to establish a website, hotline and training plan.
Controller Bob Adler will also fund expanding the office’s use of software to identify unusual financial activities and a one-time independent evaluation of its audit division.
While elected officials and department heads already undergo ethics training focused on issues pertaining to their positions — for example, the rules governing gifts — the proposed training for all employees will include ethical behavior as a whole, said Human Resources Director Donna Vaillancourt.
A committee is meeting early next month to identify and refine the curriculum for the online training, Vaillancourt said.
Adler said having employees aware of and able to report possible financial wrongdoing is important to keeping the county from falling victim.
"This is one of the most effective tools we can have,” Adler said.
Pine first suggested the new reporting options last fall, prompted by at least six local cases of alleged fraud at public entities by employees including those with the Public Administrator and the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District.
"We’ve sort of been on a bad run here,” Pine said.
Yesterday’s approved hotlines won’t yet help workers at non-county organizations like the mosquito district report suspicions but both Horsley and Pine hope that can be a future addition.
Pine’s initial proposal was delayed in November after Horsley asked for the chance to work on it together. The original request was largely the same as what came Tuesday but instead the Controller’s Office portions were funded through the county’s general fund and not his own budget.
Ongoing costs for the other recommendations are estimated at up to $30,000 annually.
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