Title 01 General Provisions
Chapter 01.04A Code of Ethics
This subsection implements Washington State's Local Government Whistleblower Protection Act, Chapter 42.41 RCW.
This subsection shall apply to all City divisions and departments.
"Emergency" means a circumstance that if not immediately changed may cause damage to persons or property.
"Improper governmental action" means any action by a local government officer or employee:
that is undertaken in the performance of the officer's or employee's official duties, whether or not within the scope of the employee's employment, and
that is in violation of any federal, state or local law or rule, is an abuse of authority, is of substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety, or is a gross waste of public funds. The phrase does not include any personnel or labor actions.
"Retaliatory action" means:
any adverse change in an employee's employment status or the terms and conditions of employment including denial of adequate staff to perform duties, frequent staff changes, frequent and undesirable office changes, refusal to assign meaningful work, unwarranted and unsubstantiated letters of reprimand or unsatisfactory performance evaluations, demotion, transfer, reassignment, reduction in pay, denial of promotion, suspension, dismissal, or any other disciplinary action; or
hostile actions by another employee towards the employee that were encouraged by a supervisor or senior manager or official.
It is the policy of the City of Spokane to encourage employees to report information concerning any allegedly improper action by the City's officers or employees. It is further the policy of the City to prevent retaliation against any employee who in good faith reports such allegedly improper action. Employees who feel they have been retaliated against may appeal to the hearing examiner.
Reporting Allegedly Improper Action
Every City employee has the right to report to the appropriate person or persons information concerning an alleged improper governmental action.
Any City employee who desires to report allegedly improper governmental action shall first report in writing such action to one of the following persons:
the hearing examiner, or;
human resources director, or;
county prosecuting attorney.
It is the responsibility of the receiving official to forward the information on to the Whistleblower Panel comprised of a representative from the human resources department, the office of the city attorney, the city council office selected by the city council, the finance department and the employee's bargaining unit representative. A member of the Whistleblower Panel who is also the subject of a complaint shall recuse themselves from the investigation.
The Whistleblower Panel shall investigate the received complaint (to include the hiring of outside investigators, if needed) and make a final report to the complainant and the Human Resources Director. The Panel shall endeavor to have a final report within ninety (90) working days of convening. A copy of the report shall be provided to the Human Resources Director and the complainant upon completion. If the Panel fails to complete its report within ninety days, the Panel shall provide an explanation to the complainant for the delay and an estimated completion date.
Except in the case of an emergency, an employee shall NOT provide information of an improper governmental action to a person or an entity who is not a public official or person listed in subsection 6.1.2 above. An employee who fails to make a good faith attempt to follow this procedure shall not receive the protections of this subsection or the State Whistleblower Protection Act.
The City shall keep confidential the identity of the person reporting to the extent possible under law, unless the employee authorizes in writing the disclosure of his or her identity.
Retaliatory Action Forbidden
No City official or employee may take retaliatory action against a City employee because the employee provided information in good faith in accordance with the provisions of this subsection that an improper governmental action occurred.
If an employee believes she or he has been retaliated against in violation of this subsection, the employee must provide a written notice of the charge or retaliatory action to the Hearing Examiner of the City. The notice must specify the alleged retaliatory action, and the relief requested.
The charge must be delivered to the Hearing Examiner no later than sixty (60) calendar days after the occurrence of the alleged retaliatory action or the date the employee reasonably should have been aware that retaliation has taken place. The City will then have thirty (30) calendar days to respond to the charge and the request for relief.
Upon receipt of either the response by the City or after the lapse of the thirty (30) calendar days, the employee may request a hearing to determine whether a retaliatory action has occurred and to obtain appropriate relief. The request for a hearing must be made within fifteen (15) calendar days of receipt of the response by the City or the lapse of the City's thirty (30) calendar day response time. Requests must be in writing and made to the City Hearing Examiner.
If the claimant has met all the time requirements, the hearing examiner will hold a hearing. The burden of proof is on the employee to prove his or her claim by a preponderance of the evidence. The hearing examiner will issue a final decision consisting of findings of fact, conclusions of law, and judgment no later than forty-five (45) calendar days following the request for hearing. The hearing examiner may grant extensions of time upon the request of either party upon a showing of good cause or on his or her own motion.
The hearing examiner may grant the following relief, as appropriate: reinstatement, with or without back pay, and injunctive relief as may be necessary to return the employee to the position he or she held before the retaliatory action and to prevent any recurrence of retaliatory action. The hearing examiner may award costs and reasonable attorneys' fees to the prevailing party. The hearing examiner may also impose a civil penalty of up to five thousand dollars ($5,000) payable by each person found to have retaliated against the employee and may recommend to the City that the person found to have retaliated be suspended or discharged.
Either party may appeal to Superior Court from an adverse determination by the hearing examiner. The hearing examiner's decision is subject to judicial review under the arbitrary and capricious standard.
The human resources department shall administer this subsection.
Date Passed: Monday, January 12, 2015
Effective Date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015
ORD C5148 Section 1