Friday, December 22, 2006

The law about attacking whistle blowers. How long until someone sues SIU and wins?

I wrote about how there was a JRB hearing because a professors was given a complaint about their promotion by SIUC's Provost at the time John Dunn. Of course, I wasn't in the room, but the rumor mill is pretty much straight up in agreement about the details.

The problem with leaking this kind of complaint is that the people who come forward with reasonable complaints will be attacked by the managers they complain about. This is all whistle blower laws and fairly well defined.

A nice person read my last entry and sent me the links with the laws -

Here is the rules about personnel files at SIU, so only if Dunn had taken action might a complaint go into someone's personnel file. If it is in the personnel file, then of course the professor could see it. But because he took no action against anyone based on the complaint, it wouldn't be in their file.

From the Illinois Ethic Acts and Personnel File Rules -
(5 ILCS 140/7) (from Ch. 116, par. 207) Sec. 7. Exemptions. (1) The following shall be exempt from inspection and copying:
(v) information revealing the identity of persons who file complaints with or provide information to administrative, investigative, law enforcement or penal agencies; provided, however, that identification of witnesses to traffic accidents, traffic accident reports, and rescue reports may be provided by agencies of local government, except in a case for which a criminal investigation is ongoing, without constituting a clearly unwarranted per se invasion of personal privacy under this subsection; and
I'm pretty sure this means that you can't identify people who file complaints. Isn't that what it says?

Generally, when you are talking about legal stuff you get into damages. For the next several years every professor that Dunn outed should get every promotion and other goodie they are up for because otherwise they can sue SIU for retaliation. Here is a summary of the Whistle Blow Act.

Here is the info from the U of I webpage, check out the "WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION" section for U of I's summary of the law.

From the rumors, it really sounds like Dunn leaked professor complaints and was clearly violating the Illinois laws if he did. The university is exposed to litigation, which is would likely lose.

The question I ask myself in times like this are why did he do it? What did he gain? Is he so ignorant that he didn't know that you can't leak stuff like this? Doesn't he know that in a small town like Carbondale that everyone knows everything? I was out with the Mrs. last night and ran into 3 professors and they all know about this.

I guess if I was running the faculty union, I might go to the Illinois Attorney General if I wanted avoid having Dunn as the next Chancellor. I'm now wondering if there is a systemic failure to follow the whistle blower rules at SIUC? Is every complaint leaked back to the manager being complained about?

Kind of reminds me of TO spitting in the other player's face last weekend. Since this is happening more and more in the NFL, eventually they will start to suspend players for games instead of fining them. At SIUC, we have seen lots of administrators ignoring the laws (rules) and no one has sued yet. The question is when will a professor sue and how much of PR damage will occur if they really start to dig? Better pray the ACLU or someone with deep pockets doesn't get into the game or you could see some real damage (for an example read "The Run Away Jury" by Grisham for how real trials work with Jury Consultants involved).

Your comments are welcome.


Anonymous said...

Here's another link right here at SIUC. Not very many people were aware of it until it was emphasized in the annual ethical training mandated by the governor.

SalukiFreeThinker said...

There are other powerful legal tools to help David against Goliath as this article suggests:

See the citation links therein to, a balanced and informative site. See also articles on "False Claims Act" in Chronicle of Higher Education (quick Google search brings up the extended liability of any institution receiving federal funding.

Any one who thinks they have a moral duty to report possibly illegal or unethical policies can invoke these but the wheels of justice spin slowly, particularly for the little guy (or gal) facing a huge bureaucracy.

I've learned that you can't trust the other guy/gal NOT to retaliate, and you also cannot rely on the law alone. You must document EVERYTHING, have friends in high and low sources, and if you do blow a whistle, hold some of your cards close so that the employer--or your coworkers--would be foolish to retaliate against you. (Keep in mind that some people will "retaliate" against you simply for your views, not whistling and the same rules apply). After all, we survived the Cold War because "MAD" (Mutual Assured Destruction) bought "nuclear peace." LOL

Employers DO do foolish things because they arrogantly assume you are bluffing and are all alone. You a) can't afford to bluff (see cardholding above); b) must use the media when necessary; and c) connect with those who help fight corruption and cronyism, whether here or nationally; and d) have some top-notch lawyers who will do pro bono work for you if push comes to shove. The kind of lawyers that don't lose.

But keep in mind that "doing the right thing" will cost you something but if you don't, who will?

As for SIU, it would be a tragedy if the administration spent time retaliating against targeted individuals who really have the university's interest at heart, even if they disagree with their viewpoints. Those who say what some don't want to hear offer a different perspective on things.

BTW, you are right about the "small town" nature of SIU. It is amazing what has come my way (and your's) over the years.

Jonathan Bean said...

I found it amusing that after I reported publicly to the Faculty Senate that the university's race-exclusive programs needed changing after 2003 Sup. Ct. cases, someone at SIU suggested that I blew the whistle to the DOJ and had it splattered on the pages of the SI (as a result, the newspaper--to its credit--changed its policies on using anonymous sources that are clearly intended to smear some one). I'm not quite sure what they were trying to do with that article--after all, everyone knew where I stood, so "outing me" as someone who believes civil rights are for all Americans is a bit redundant.

Never mind that all observers of this national case said that SIU was a sitting duck with programs that could not withstand judicial scrutiny. Never mind that I was backing the recommendations of the previous SIU lawyer (Peter Ruger) who said the same thing. And never mind that the current lawyer conceded that the university would probably lose and it was better to sign a consent decree. That was just a year ago. If I blew the whistle, I certainly did it publicly and to the right authorities but no one listened. At the time of the consent decree, I applauded Poshard for "doing the right thing" (his words) by signing and wrote an op-ed in the DE on the case, defending the DOJ's demand for change. But what do I know?

Jon Bean said...


This is up on SIU's web site so I am not comprising the confidentiality of any one (indeed, the Faculty Senate President asked me to submit it). I thought readers might be interested in it, given my last post. (See the opening letter, April 22, 2004 to Kim Espy, Faculty Senate President, on my two years serving on the Chancellor's Affirmative Action Committee).

Anonymous said...

It should be mentioned that any whistle blower at SIUC will lose his/her job. The original issue will not be cited, but it will be for some other reason like a concocted "financial exigency."

A prominent employment atty in the area told me that no one would ever come after me for failing to report an ethics violation - but that I could count on losing my job for some other invented reason if I did report a violation.

Fraydog said...

To me, it only begs the question: what was Wendler's role in all of this? If it's an effort by certain people to get another Chancellor, I'd just warn them to be careful what you ask for. Jo Ann is never coming back, and some people at SIU are going to have to realize this. You know who I'm talking about.