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The City of Avenal's Whistleblower Hotline is a program that offers employees, citizens, and other interested complainants to confidentially report (1) any activity or conduct in which he/she suspects instances of fraud, waste, or abuse and (2) violations of certain federal or state laws and regulations relating to fraud, waste, and abuse as it is defined in California Government Code §53087.6(f) (2).
SCOPE OF POLICY
This policy applies to any irregularity, or suspected irregularity, involving employees as well as consultants, vendors, contractors, outside agencies doing business with employees of such agencies, and/or any other parties with a business relationship with the City. Any investigative activity required will be conducted without regard to the suspected wrongdoer's length of service, position/title, or relationship to the City.
Management is responsible for the detection and prevention of fraud, waste, and abuse. California Government Code §53087.6(f) (2) defines the terms, "fraud, waste, or abuse" as follows:
• any activity by a local agency or employee that is undertaken in the performance of the employee's official duties, including activities deemed to be outside the scope of his or her employment, that:
Is in violation of any local, state, or federal law or regulation relating to:
• theft of government property,
• fraudulent claims,
• malicious prosecution,
• misuse of government property, or
• willful omission to perform duty,
• Is economically wasteful, or
• Involves gross misconduct.
Each member of the executive and management team will be familiar with the types of improprieties that might occur within his or her area of responsibility, and be alert for any indication of irregularity. Any irregularity that is detected or suspected must be reported immediately to the person designated as the City Finance Director, who may coordinate investigations with the appropriate entities and personnel.
Some of these improprieties may be defined as follows:
Fraud - A known misrepresentation of the truth or misstatement of fact to induce another to act to the City's detriment.
Theft of government property - Unauthorized taking in to one's possession of property owned by the City.
Fraudulent claims - A misrepresentation of facts in a claim to receive compensation.
Conversion - The wrongful possession of or interference with the City's property as if it were one's own.
Misuse of government property - Misuse of the City's property.
Corruption - The impairment of a public official's duties by bribery.
Malfeasance - Wrongdoing or misconduct by a public official.
Bribery - The corrupt payment, receipt, or solicitation of a private favor for official action.
Coercion - Compulsion by physical force or threat of physical force; threat of taking or withholding official action or causing an official to take or withhold an action.
Malicious prosecution - Intentionally (and maliciously) instituting and pursuing (or causing to be instituted or pursued) a legal action that is brought without probable cause and dismissed in favor of the victim that caused damages.
Willful omission to perform duty - Intentional neglect to take action required by law or contract.
Complaints received by the Hotline that allege certain Labor-Management Issues, e.g. Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, Substance Abuse, and Workplace Violence/Threats are not included in the statutory definition of fraud, waste, or abuse and are not in the purview of this policy. However, these complaints are forwarded to the appropriate management function for review and action.
Great care must be taken in the investigation of suspected improprieties or irregularities so as to avoid mistaken accusations or alerting suspected individuals that an investigation is under way.
Any employee, or other interested complainant, who discovers or suspects fraudulent activity will have several options to report.
Reporting can occur by:
• Contacting the City Manager and/or Finance Director - either in person, by mail, or by direct phone call;
• Hotline Reporting- calling the California State Attorney General's reporting line at 1-800-952-5225
• Online Reporting - web intake form at www.cityofavenal.com/whistleblower
The following information is necessary to begin and continue processing a complaint/concern:
• The alleged misconduct involves a City of Avenal employee, a contractor, or a vendor doing business with the City of Avenal.
• Name of the individual(s) involved.
• Specific information regarding the alleged misconduct.
• Circumstances surrounding how the alleged misconduct occurred.
• Where or in what department the alleged misconduct occurred.
• When the alleged misconduct occurred.
• The conduct should meet the statutory definition of fraud, waste, and abuse found at CA Government Code §53087.6(£)(2).
During the initial review of complainant report(s), the City Manager and Finance Director will hold in confidence information disclosed through the Hotline, including the identity of the caller disclosing the information and the parties identified by the caller as allowed under CA Government Code §53087.6.
The complainant may remain anonymous to the extent allowed by law. All inquiries concerning the activity under investigation from the suspected individual, his or her attorney or representative, or any other inquirer should be directed to the City Manager, Finance Director or the City Attorney. No information concerning the status of an investigation will be given out. The proper response to any inquiry is: "There is no information to report at this time." No reference should be made to "the allegation," "the crime," "the fraud," "the forgery," "the misappropriation," or any other specific fraud reference when referring to any report.
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