Sullivan lawmakers review policy on whistle blowers


Health and Family Services
Commissioner Randy Parker
remains on ‘administrative leave’
following allegations of
mismanaging the HEAP program.
Legislature leaders are not
discussing the case. (file photo)

MONTICELLO – “Sullivan County is committed to the highest standards of ethical, moral and legal conduct,” reads the first paragraph of a draft whistle blower policy.  The County Legislature’s Personnel Committee is in the early stages of reviewing it. 
The policy follows complaints about Health and Family Services Commissioner Randy Parker, who was placed on administrative leave last month following allegations of mismanagement regarding applications for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP).  Parker countered with his on complaints. 
On Thursday, the committee heard some suggestions from County Attorney
Sam Yasgur on points to ponder, including:

What can you complain about?
Who gets to receive and see the complaint?
Who looks into it?
What would the consequences be for abusing any whistle blower provisions?
Who gets to know about the filing?

“I suggest that if you have those five steps, you’ve got a pretty good whistle blower policy,” Yasgur said.
Legislator Cindy Kurpil Gieger felt the draft policy was perhaps a bit too vague.
“I just think that we need to look at inappropriate government conduct,” Geiger said.  “Who’s going to determine that?  And, leaving unlawful or fraudulent activities out, such as in the current policy, is, I think, opening this up to anybody saying ‘inappropriate government conduct’.”
Another Democrat, Jonathan Rouis cautioned against a policy that might be too restrictive.
“And when used correctly, you want error to be on the side of ‘hey, I’d rather somebody bring something up that becomes you misinterpreted this, there’s no finding’, then to discourage somebody because that’s how fraud, waste and abuse gets rooted out.”
Another point of contention is where to draw the line between issues that can be resolved internally, and what rises to a level of possible criminality that would need to be handled on a higher level. 

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