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         January 20, 2005

Republican Legislators File "2005 Whistleblower Protection Act"

In an effort to protect Nassau County employees who come forward and report incidents of abuse and misconduct, the Republican Minority of the Nassau County Legislature has filed the "2005 The Whistleblower Protection Act" with the Clerk of the Legislature. This legislation will protect Nassau County employees from retaliation by County administrators. "In the recent past, a number of employees have come forward with concerns over actions by supervisors, which have resulted in costly litigation for the County and misuse of County funds. This piece of legislation will protect an employee who comes forward with an allegation of unlawful activity," said Legislator Norma L. Gonsalves (R-East Meadow).

The investigation into the collapse of County Executive Suozzi's Economic Development Department was initiated by Nassau County employees who felt the actions taken by Deputy County Executive Peter Sylver and other supervisors were unlawful. Republican Legislators received anonymous complaints from County employees of improper and unlawful activities in the months leading up to, and throughout the legislative hearings. The County employees were fearful of retribution from administrative personnel, and therefore, did not disclose their identities. "The information obtained by these communications uncovered problems and improprieties that were detailed during the Legislative hearings. It became quite clear that these employees were afraid of retaliation by their employer," said Legislator Gonsalves.

Upon the conclusion of the hearings into the mismanagement of millions of dollars earmarked for low-income residents, the Nassau County Office of Legislative Budget Review issued a report outlining problems within the department and offered suggestions for improving those areas. Legislative Budget Review Director, Eric Naughton stated, "the County must promote an environment in which employees are aware of their rights as whistleblowers, and where they will feel comfortable in coming forward with their allegations. Consideration should be given to the question of whether the County should have its own local law that provides greater protection to its employees."

In response to the disturbing trend that has emerged from such scandals as the Sylver investigation, the Republican Minority finds it necessary to promote and provide a degree of protection to Nassau County employees who report information on alleged improper or illegal activities by another county employee. "Employees who blow the whistle on improper activities will now have an avenue to pursue damages which may include a reinstatement of the employee to the same position, the reinstatement of fringe benefits, and/or compensation for lost wages. Nassau County employees need to feel that they are protected if they wish to report improper or illegal activities," added Legislator Gonsalves.

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