Republican legislators are offering an apparent enhancement of South Dakota’s thin whistleblower protections. Today Rep. Don Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls) filed House Bill 1052, which would write this single new section into law:
No department, bureau, board, or commission of the state or any of its political subdivisions may dismiss, suspend from employment, demote, decrease the compensation of, or take any other retaliatory action against an employee because the employee reports in good faith to an appropriate authority a violation or suspected violation of a law or rule, an abuse of funds or abuse of authority, or substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, unless the report is specifically prohibited by law.
I look at that last phrase and wonder why any law would prohibit public employees from reporting crime, corruption, or imminent catastrophe.
SDCL 1-56-12, created last year as part of the bill creating the new State Board of Internal Control, allows public employees to “file a grievance with the Civil Service Commission if the employee believes that there has been retaliation because of reporting a violation of state law.”
That relatively new statute refers to SDCL 3-6D-22, enacted in 2012 to allow public officers and employees to file a grievance with the Civil Service Commission if they believe “there has been retaliation” for reporting a violation of state law or filing a suggestion.
SDCL 27B-8-43 forbids agencies, community service providers, facilities, and schools from retaliating against staff who report “suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation, or against any person with a developmental disability.”
Initiated Measure 22 protects whistleblowers by providing an anonymous telephone hotline for reporting corruption in state government. However, IM 22 has been blocked by Circuit Court Judge Mark Barnett in response to a lawsuit filed by some of the sponsors of HB 1052, including three of its Senate sponsors, R. Blake Curd, Bob Ewing, and Al Novstrup.
HB 1052 says nothing about state employees whose spouses might blow the whistle on illegal or corrupt activity. It also says nothing about retribution based on political activities.