Ailing Sen. Mike Carrell’s bill to give whistle blowers more protections passed in the state House on a resounding 96-1 vote Monday evening. The measure, Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5577, was amended so it must go back to the Senate for concurrence.
A bill that would exempt some Department of Enterprise Services employees from competitive contracting passed the Senate on a partisan vote of 25 to 23 on Friday evening. That means they could not offer competing bids if the work they do is farmed out to the private sector.
Senate Bill 5891 was a less far-reaching measure than a contracting out measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane, but it targets technology services, as Baumgartner’s had. “This assumes $15 million in savings, which I believe is conservative,” Baumgartner said Friday.
Washington’s insufficient protections for ethics whistle blowers create a “chilling effect” on state employees, Executive Ethics Board director Melanie DeLeon told lawmakers today.
“If you want to file a complaint against your supervisor, you feel like you’re going to be retaliated against,” she said after talking to the House Government Operations and Elections Committee. “So they don’t. They don’t file it.”
Among them is a provision letting elected officials keep files secret on their own personal investigations of wrongdoing. The agency said it would encourage separate investigations by politicians parallel to official probes.
A newspaper lobbyist agreed that’s not the role of elected officials. ”You’d be out there in a sort of ‘Columbo’-esque way trying to figure out what happened,” Rowland Thompson told lawmakers.
“I do have an old raincoat,” joked the committee chairman, Rep. Sam Hunt.
Carrell, a Republican senator from Lakewood, did his own sleuthing in a case that inspired the bill. Read more »
The Senate voted unanimously Friday to pass a bill from Sen. Mike Carrell that lets whistle blowers provide information to state ethics investigators without fear of being identified publicly. It also has provisions to punish any supervisor who retaliates with at least a reprimand and potentially a 30-day suspension and civil fines of up to $5,000.
Carrell, a Republican senator from Lakewood, says that two whistle blowers at the Department of Corrections – whom he is not publicly identifying – suffered retaliation after bringing wrongdoing to light by a supervisor.