SF’s Whistleblower Ordinance Fails to Protect Whistleblowers, Says Grand Jury



The San Francisco Civil Grand Jury released a report this concluding that the city’s whistleblower protection ordinance fails to protect whistleblowers from retaliation.


The Grand Jury found that the ordinance only covers those who blow the whistle through approved channels within city government. Those who disclose government wrongdoing to the news media, or to outside authorities such as the California Attorney General, the F.B.I. or the Congress are not protected.



It also covers only those who reveal information about certain specified types of wrongdoing. Those who disclose other, equally serious offenses are not protected. The ordinance also provides no substantial remedy to victims of retaliation, and its complaint process is ineffective.


To date, no such complaint has ever resulted in a public accusation of retaliation for whistleblowing. All have been investigated in secret and dismissed without a public hearing.


The jury recommends that the Board of Supervisors, the San Francisco Ethics Commission and the Mayor take steps to amend the city’s whistleblower protection ordinance so that it provides real protection to whistleblowers. This is mandated by a provision of the City Charter that requires the Board to enact and maintain such an ordinance.


The Superior Court selects 19 San Franciscans to serve a year term as Civil Grand Jurors. The jury has the authority to investigate city government and inspect records, interview officials, and receive relevant information from the public.


At the end of its inquiries, the Jury issues a report outlining its findings, and recommendations to address them. City agencies identified in the report receive copies and must respond with agreement to implement the recommendations, in whole or in part, or to not accept them.


The Board of Supervisors conducts a public hearing on each Civil Grand Jury report.


To view the report, visit online at http://civilgrandjury.sfgov.org/report.html.


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