Gov. Peter Shumlin today signed into law legislation protecting the identities of "whistleblowers,' those who step forward to report suspected violations of law, waste, fraud or abuse of authority by public officials or employees.
The legislation was proposed by State Auditor of Accounts Doug Hoffer, who was concerned that under current law he could be legally compelled to disclose the identities of whistleblowers if requested. He sought the legislative change to protect the confidentiality of people who come to his office with concerns about potential mismanagement or worse in their agencies or by government contractors.
"We take the protection of whistleblowers very seriously. Nevertheless, the possibility of public identification could have a chilling effect on reports of fraud or misconduct," Gov. Shumlin said. "I want to hear about any problems in state government, and this change ensures that employees will feel more comfortable coming forward with that information."
"I want to thank the administration and the two committees of jurisdiction. It is no small thing to create another exemption to the public records act," said Hoffer. "In this case, however, I think it serves the public interest since the goal is to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of state government."
The bill was sponsored by the House Government Operations Committee.
In addition to the whistleblower provision, the legislation also requires the release of records dating from 1891 to 1913 to help identify patients from the now-closed Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury buried in the hospital's cemetery and on its grounds in unmarked graves.