SB 151 Requires Corruption Whistleblowers to Notify Accused Officials of Their Complaints

Senate Bill 151 shows how differently two legislative chambers can view a issue. This anti-corruption measure, creating new provisions for reporting and investigating public corruption, breezed through the House with less than a handful of nays, yet it barely got out of the Senate alive, passing Friday 18–17.

During the floor debate (timestamp 5:35:20), Senator Lance Russell pointed out that SB 151 actually makes it harder for citizens to bring complaints against public officials than it is to bring complaints against other criminals. Senator Russell, a former state’s attorney, said a normal complaint just requires contacting the police and maybe filling out a form, while SB 151 requires complainants to file a sworn affidavit.

Senator Stace Nelson, who like Russell has some law enforcement experience, noted that Section 3 requires folks complaining to the Division of Criminal Investigation of fraud, bribery, and violations of gift limits to send a copy of their affidavit to the person about whom they are complaining.

[screen cap from SDPB, 2017.03.10]
[screen cap from SDPB, 2017.03.10]
One of the highest levels of information when I was an NCIS agent in our manual was we were to treat anonymous complaints, anonymous informants, with the highest of credibility. I didn’t always understand that as a young agent, but I can tell you that in my experience, often times those folks who provided the anonymous information had a lot of motivation to do so, and they often times did so with great trepidation.What we’re trying to do here, I think, we’re defeating the actual cause of it. If our intent is to combat corruption in our state government, requiring someone to come forward and provide that information and identify themselves to the person they’re providing information on is contrary, as my good seat mate pointed out, to good law enforcement practices. I think it’s important that these witnesses have identity protection and allow their information to come forward and be vetted on the merits of the complaint not on who’s providing it, and definitely not making them a target for retaliation.

Robbery and rape victims aren’t required to notify their robbers and rapists that they are speaking to the police. Is there a good reason for SB 151 to require corruption whistleblowers to contact the subjects of their complaints?

Supporters of SB 151 may point to House Bill 1052, cheered and signed by the Governor, which purports to protect public employees from retaliation from their superiors for reporting corruption. However, HB 1052 offers no protection to journalists, private investigators, and other private citizens who may get wind of corruption and want to report it to the authorities.

With SB 151, legislators seem to be holding those who would challenge their sterling reputations to a higher, riskier standard than those who would complain about criminal activity by other, lesser beings. The close Senate vote on SB 151 indicates that many Senators share Russell’s and Nelson’s recognition that SB 151 doesn’t tackle corruption as seriously as it ought.

9 Responses to SB 151 Requires Corruption Whistleblowers to Notify Accused Officials of Their Complaints

  1. mike from iowa

    Isn’t that nice, the two sides can exchange pleasantries. The accuser hands the accused the accusation and the accused hands the accuser a “disgruntled employee’ pink slip. What’ll they think of next?

  2. It’s the difference between a couple of former law enforcement officers that know what they are doing and a bunch of political hacks that are only interested in covering their own tail-ends.

  3. Seems only fair. G

  4. Donald Pay

    They did much the same sort of thing with complaints about violations of environmental laws and regulations, though I recall the Environmental Protection Agency at some point stepped in to require
    These guys are so dumb. Making all this unnecessary bureaucracy has one purpose: choke off complaints, particularly from “insiders” who have the inside dirt. How do you beat this?

    At one time DENR had a similar system in place. They were going to refuse to accept anonymous complaints. I recall that the Environmental Protection Agency made them change that, but by that time we had figured out a workaround. What happened was that our little group became known as a way “insiders” (employees at mining companies or DENR personnel, for example) could leak information to us, and we would launder all the information they had on the complaint so it couldn’t be traced back to the leaker, and file their complaint tied to our organization.

    All you need to beat this nonsense is an independent organization willing to slightly launder information to protect folks that have the goods on corruption, and file the necessary paperwork.

  5. Richard Schriever

    I can tell you for fact that currently, when one government employee complains to a police officer, sheriff, or a states’ attorney about another employee, or an entire governmental body for violations of law; those law enforcement officials DO inform the potential criminal(s) of what the complaint is, and WHO COMPLAINED. There is NO protection against retaliation against any subordinate to those complained about. And in a “right to work” state – we all know what that means.

  6. Stace Nelson

    SB151 was pushed by those with close ties to this administration which has a sordid history of corruption which inspired the voters passage of IM22.

    Compare the disclosure requirements they are enacting with how the federal government handles complaints:

    This appears to be a concerted effort to intimidate people from coming forward with information and setting them up for retaliation. HB1052 has no serious protections or recourse if Whistleblowers are in fact retaliated against.

    They were frantic and desperate to pass SB151, there is more to the story…

  7. mike from iowa

    Drumpf will soon replace everyone with people loyal to him, not their country. Impeach the SOB now and then nail the jackals in Pierre. Jail is to good for those that continually foster corruption- aka wingnuts. Bring back the guillotine.

  8. Connie Mogen

    I agree with you, Stace, there’s more to the story! IMHO, I think EB5 and Gearup are the tip of the iceburg! That’s why they were so desperate to kill IM22 OR any semblance of true anticorruption laws, rules or regulations of any kind!!

  9. As I say to anyone who says there is more to the story, do tell. The comment section is open….