Reporting Improper Governmental Actions
Western Washington University encourages university employees to disclose improper governmental actions. University employees may disclose their concerns to the State Auditor’s Office or Western’s Office of the Internal Auditor.
Improper Governmental Action - Definition
Improper governmental action, RCW 42.40.020(5)(a), is defined as any action by an employee undertaken in the performance of the employee’s official duties which:
- Is a gross waste of public funds or resources.
- Is in violation of federal or state law or rule, if the violation is not merely technical or of a minimum nature.
- Is of substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety.
- Is gross mismanagement.
- Prevents dissemination of scientific opinion or alters technical findings.
Office of the Internal Auditor
If a university employee does not wish to file a Whistleblower Report through the State Auditor’s Office, they may disclose assertions of improper governmental actions to Western's Office of the Internal Auditor. Employees should be aware that the Washington State’s Whistleblower Act does not apply to communications between university employees and the Office of the Internal Auditor. The Office of the Internal Auditor is an additional venue for employees to disclose concerns. Internal Audit handles all information received in a confidential and discrete manner. University employees may contact the Office of the Internal Auditor by mail, phone, in person or by using the anonymous Contact the Internal Auditor web form.
The Office of the Internal Auditor is authorized to receive and investigate complaints of improper governmental action. The Office of the Internal Auditor analyzes the complaint and may investigate. Investigations are performed independently and objectively through interviews and reviewing relevant documents and other evidence. The Office of the Internal Auditor documents the investigation procedures and results in working papers. The Office of the Internal Auditor issues reports and distributes the reports as outlined in Internal Audit policy POL-U1500.05 - Distributing Final Audit Reports.
The reporting and investigation processes provided by the Office of the Internal Auditor are intended to create an opportunity where employees can report situations in good faith without fear of reprisal or retaliation. University employees who disclose alleged improper governmental actions to the Office of the Internal Auditor and feel they have been subjected to reprisal or retaliation, should contact the Internal Audit Director at (360) 650-3435 or Kim.Herrenkohl@wwu.edu.
Contact Information: Kim Herrenkohl,Internal Audit Director, (360) 650-3435
Washington State Auditor’s Office - Whistleblower Act
Washington State’s Whistleblower Act, Chapter 42.40 RCW, was enacted to encourage employees of the State of Washington to disclose improper government actions to the State Auditor’s Office. The Act provides protections to the whistleblower against retaliation if the complainant acts in good faith and appropriately reports the improper governmental actions to the Office of the State Auditor or one of Western’s designees. The Act does not authorize the State Auditor's Office to investigate personnel actions, such as employee grievances for which other remedies exist.
From the State Auditor’s Office Whistleblower Program Frequently Asked Questions web page:
- Is there a specific timeframe in which to report improper governmental actions?
RCW 42.40.040(1)(a). For an improper governmental action to be investigated it must be provided to the auditor or agency designee within one year after the occurrence of the action.
- Who can file a Whistleblower assertion?
Any current Washington state employee may report a suspected improper governmental action through the Whistleblower Program. This includes temporary employees, classified and exempt civil service employees and elected officials. RCW 42.40.020(2) and (8).
Whistleblower: An employee who makes a report alleging improper governmental action in good faith or an employee perceived to have provided such information to the State Auditor’s Office or another public official in connection with an investigation.
- What precludes an employee from making a frivolous or false disclosure of improper governmental action?
Whistleblowers must file assertions in good faith. RCW 42.40.020(3) states that an employee cannot knowingly report false, malicious or frivolous information, recklessly disregard the truth or omit relevant information in order to report in good faith. RCW 42.40.040(5)(c) states that identity of any person who, in good faith, provides information in a whistleblower investigation will be provided confidentiality.
- How do I file a Whistleblower assertion?
Reports of improper governmental action(s) must be filed in writing with the State Auditor's Office. Reports may also be filed with a Public Official or designee, defined as someone who is in a position to pass the assertion onto the State Auditor’s Office and act with discretion and in a nonretaliatory fashion.
Note: SAO provides an online Whistleblower Reporting Form or a printable Word Whistleblower Reporting Form.
Western’s Whistleblower Report Designees:
Effective June 12, 2008, the Whistleblower Act was amended. One amendment provides state employees with the opportunity to make official Whistleblower reports to individuals designated by Western’s President. Western’s designees must maintain the identity of the whistleblower in confidence and transmit the employee’s Whistleblower Report to the State Auditor’s Office within 15 days of receipt.
President Bruce Shepard has established the following Whistleblower Report Designees for Western Washington University:
Kim Herrenkohl, Internal Audit Director
MS-9015: Telephone: 360-650-3435
Catherine Riordan, Provost
MS-9033: Telephone: 360-650-3480
Eileen Coughlin, Senior Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services
MS-9001; Telephone: 360-650-3839
Rich Van Den Hul, Vice President For Business and Financial Affairs
MS-9044: Telephone: 360-650-3180
Chyerl Wolfe-Lee, Human Resources Director
MS-9054; Telephone: 360-650-3630
(Rev. September 27, 2010)
More Whistleblower information:
- About the Washington State Whistleblower Program
- Whistleblower Program - Frequently Asked Questions
- Whistleblower Reporting Form
Washington State Auditor's Office - Hotline
The Washington State Auditor’s Office operates a hotline for citizens and government employees to report assertions of government fraud, waste and abuse. It is also a place to report government efficiency or outstanding achievement. This is an anonymous service, although you may choose to provide your contact information. The law requires that your identification remain confidential until the report is issued, after which time all records are subject to public record laws.
Citizens or governmental employees may report online or by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-866-902-3900.