Rep. Annette Glenn, R-Midland, today said the reported possible indictment of former Gov. Rick Snyder, R-Michigan, “makes all the more clear why Michigan should immediately take action to give state government whistleblowers legal protection from retaliation, regardless of which party holds the governor’s office.”
Glenn said: “If state employees had felt protected by law to talk to legislators about their concerns early on, free of fear of retaliation, we might have avoided the Flint water crisis altogether, saving state taxpayers a billion dollars in cleanup and recovery costs, but most importantly, saving lives.”
Glenn, who will be sworn into office for her second term today, said she will immediately reintroduce the whistleblower protection legislation she sponsored last year that won overwhelming bipartisan support in the state House — passing by a 99-2 vote last October — but which later died in the state Senate.
Glenn said she expects majorities in both chambers this session will support the legislation and said she “can’t imagine any circumstance or rationale by which Gov. Whitmer would continue to oppose protecting whistleblowers and taxpayers, especially since the governor supported such legislation when she served in the state Senate.”
Glenn said that “in the Flint water crisis, this legislation would have protected state employees from retaliation under a Republican administration, and state employees should be equally protected in their right to communicate with the Legislature now without fear of retaliation from a Democratic administration.”
Glenn last September broke a year-long partisan log jam in the House between competing versions of Democratic and Republican legislation to strengthen protections for state employee whistleblowers who report misuse of state funds, violations of state law, or other official misconduct by the state agencies for whom they work.
Glenn’s House Bill 5981 would have created an official State Employee Ombudsman to receive and refer whistleblower complaints to appropriate administrative or law enforcement authorities while protecting the identity of state employees submitting the complaints.
“A couple instances I could imagine state employees coming forward to report mismanagement of funds or misconduct within a state department,” Glenn said during testimony, “are the Flint water crisis and the Unemployment Insurance Agency fraud, which included money changing hands in order to move someone’s application up in line.
“Unfortunately,” Glenn said, “state employees do still fear they will lose their jobs or be reprimanded if they come forward with information or allegations that could help improve the way departments operate, save state tax dollars, and potentially even save lives.”
After her testimony, the bills won overwhelming support with the 99-2 vote.