FAIRFIELD — Solano County’s whistleblower program explored 33 cases from January through June, ranging from allegations of wasting county money to committing time-sheet fraud.
The county Auditor-Controller’s Office found three cases have merit and 21 had no merit. Three are still under investigation. Six got referred to agencies outside the county with no determination on merit, a county report said.
Solano County began the program in 2012. It allows people to make complaints in writing, over a hotline or over the Internet to the county concerning allegations of waste and fraud.
Of the three cases deemed to have merit, one involved the allegation of a superstore calling a county resident to offer her an $8,000 grant in exchange for loading a store debit card with $300. The Auditor-Controller’s Office determined this incident was debit card scam and referred it to the Sheriff’s Office.
The second case involved a county employee spending too much time on the phone for personal calls, thus wasting county resources. This employee has been reminded to keep personal phone calls to a minimum, the county report said.
The third case involved a county employee misreporting time worked and also working from home. The employee got “verbally counseled” by her manager. The department head is working with the county Human Resources Department on a resolution, the county report said.
Solano County’s whistleblower program was the subject of a 2013-14 Solano County grand jury report last spring. Auditor-Controller Simona Padilla-Scholtens submitted responses.
The grand jury concluded that the whistleblowers program is not well-publicized, especially beyond the sphere of county employees. More should be done to give the program publicity, it recommended.
Padilla-Scholtens wrote that posters on the program are located in every county department and at libraries. Information is available on the Auditor-Controller’s Office website. The county has implemented the grand jury’s suggestion of modifying the county website to more prominently display the program.
The grand jury recommended that county supervisors and managers provide complete reports of investigative hours and the financial impacts to the Auditor-Controller’s Office.
Padilla-Scholtens wrote that the internal audit division of her department will determine if doing so is cost-effective.
The grand jury recommended that whistleblower complaints involving the Auditor-Controller’s Office go directly to the County Counsel’s Office, rather than being forwarded to the County’s Counsel’s Office by the Auditor Controller’s Office.
Padilla-Scholtens wrote that this recommendation will be addressed in the next six months. The website and complaint forms will include information on directly contacting the County Counsel’s Office for complaints about the Auditor-Controller’s Office.
Go to www.co.solano.ca.us/depts/auditor/whistleblower/default.asp to learn more about the whistleblower program. The hotline is 866-348-8477.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.