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NEWBERRY ‒ The Newberry City Commission is considering strengthening the City’s whistleblower procedures. A legislative public hearing was held on Aug. 24 on first reading of Ordinance 2020-12 that establishes an administrative procedure for employees and others who report illegality, mismanagement, malfeasance, waste or fraud on the part of City employees, agents or contractors.

Commissioners unanimously approved the measure on first reading. It is anticipated that it will be heard again on second and final reading during the first City Commission meeting in September.

Director of Finance and Administration Dallas Lee presented an overview of the proposed ordinance and explained that this ordinance codifies the rules that are already in place with the City on this issue.

In his explanation of the “Whistle-blower’s Act,” Lee said that it provides protections to people who disclose information regarding certain types of behaviors. “The Act provides for the establishment, by local ordinance, of an administrative procedure to permit disclosure of complaints and protect those persons making disclosure from retaliation. Further,” said Lee, “the Act also provides that when a local government adopts a local ordinance establishing such administrative procedures, that the local government will have an opportunity to address complaints locally instead of proceeding directly to court.”

State statute provides that even though the City has adopted policies about Confidential Reporting, state statute provides that “if these policies are adopted by ordinance then both the City and employee receive additional protections.”

Lee explained that it is in the City’s best interest to have the first opportunity to review and address allegations by its employees, agents or contractors and exhaust all administrative means necessary prior to moving forward with allegations. “We want to redress grievances and ensure that operations are always conducted with integrity and responsive to the needs of the citizens of Newberry,” said Lee.

Lee said that adoption of the ordinance allows employees an avenue to have concerns addressed without the expense and time of litigation falling to the employee. “The ordinance also empowers employees to disclose information of unlawful activity or malfeasance to the appropriate employees with assurances the employee will not be retaliated against, or provides recourse for any such retaliation,” said Lee.

This ordinance establishes a new section of code creating a procedure to handle confidential reporting complaints and legal protections for the complainant.

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