Vermont whistleblowers will be afforded new protections in Vermont starting July 1.
Gov. Peter Shumlin signed H.863 into law Wednesday. When it takes effect this summer, whistleblowers who report suspicions of waste, fraud and abuse in public systems will be more secure in their anonymity.
State Auditor Doug Hoffer requested the legislation, saying he felt the wording of existing whistleblower protections were not strong enough to protect against disclosure. Hoffer testified this spring to lawmakers that he felt stronger confidentiality statutes ultimately would improve transparency.
“We take the protection of whistleblowers very seriously,” Shumlin said in a news release. “Nevertheless, the possibility of public identification could have a chilling effect on reports of fraud or misconduct.” He said he wanted the public to feel secure about coming forward to report wrongdoing.
Hoffer thanked lawmakers and administration officials for bolstering the state’s whistleblower laws.
“It is no small thing to create another exemption to the public records act,” Hoffer said. “In this case, however, I think it serves the public interest since the goal is to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of state government.”
Unless a whistleblower consents to the disclosure of his or her identity, any information that could be used to identify that person is kept secret.
The whistleblower provisions apply to anyone who alleges that a public agency, a public employee or official, or a public agency’s private contractor has broken the law; committed waste, fraud or abuse; or created a health or safety threat.
Hoffer’s office offers several ways to report suspicions of wrongdoing in a variety of areas. For more information, visit the reporting page on the auditor’s website, or call 877-290-1400.