Governor Brown approves whistleblower protection, military reform
October 2, 2012
The California Military Whistleblower Protection Act, prompted by an investigation at Camp San Luis Obispo into bonus and incentive fraud among the ranks of the California National Guard, was signed into law Friday.
The military reform package, Senate Bill 921 by Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), gives the governor the power to appoint an independent inspector general to oversee the California Military Department. The inspector will be responsible for investigating specified complaints and allegations of misconduct within California’s military.
The law, which went into immediate effect upon approval this week, requires the inspector general to maintain a toll-free public telephone number and Internet website to receive complaints and allegations. Upon written request, it would be the general’s duty to investigate and respond to any such claims. Those requests would be given a level of privacy, as they would not be subject to public record under the California Public Records Act.
Further special protection would be given to those reporting the misconduct, under the California Military Whistleblower Protection Act, established under SB 921. For one, the act prohibits anyone from restricting a member of the military department from becoming a whistleblower or trying to communicate misconduct. It also protects against any acts of retribution or reprisal for those trying to report corruption.
The legislation was an urgency bill that moved through the Senate with unanimous approval following the exposure, in 2010, of upwards of $100 million in potential fraud plaguing the California National Guard from the bottom to the top of the chain of command.
Capt. Ronald Clark made the discoveries while conducting an investigation at the United States Property and Fiscal Office in San Luis Obispo. The federal auditor quickly became a whistleblower, leaking the corruption to the Sacramento Bee, the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI once he discovered that the military was looking to “minimize” the situation and “bury” it, Clark told CalCoastNews in a 2011 interview.
Today, Clark is positive about the reform that came from the risks and the career sacrifices he made to expose the corruption within what he saw as a “good old boy’s club.”
“I think it shows that you can still make a difference,” he said. “People should still feel safe to do the right thing.”