New Whistleblower Bill: HB 1052 Would Protect Public Employees Who Report Crime or Corruption

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.

4 Responses to New Whistleblower Bill: HB 1052 Would Protect Public Employees Who Report Crime or Corruption

  1. Richard Schriever

    This law may not have saved my position on the Lennox Planning Commission a few years ago – but it certainly would have resulted in the City of Lennox be required to answer a complaint against their retaliatory actions against me for having asked the state’s attorney to investigate a possible open meetings violation, and reporting a violation of a city ordinance by the City Council.

  2. HB 1052 is a very small step in the right direction.

  3. Roger Elgersma

    get rid of the gag law

  4. The man apparently doesn’t understand the culture of state government employment. Employees are quite frequently dismissed for insubordination long before they encounter information or circumstances that might lead them down the road to reporting corruption. State employees soon learn that they are hired for more than just their qualifications and experience doing a job. They are there, often times, to provide insulation to bureaucrats that don’t do the job they are appointed to do.