Before you become a whistleblower, you have to be willing to be a feather-ruffler.
You don’t blow whistles without ruffling some feathers.
Hats off to the Lincoln County whistleblowers who pressed Richmond County officials to look into the case of county earthmoving equipment being “loaned” to a personal project on private property in Lincoln County.
As one public official noted to us recently, there have been a lot of changes in the world in the past few decades. With smart phones and social media, citizen watchdogs can not only be heard more readily — but also seen.
Note to government employees: Little brother is watching you.
It may not be earth-shattering, but it’s significant that two employees are gone — one retired, the other resigned — after whistleblowers proved that Richmond County taxpayer-paid equipment was being used, with county employees’ blessings and even work time, on private property in another county.
Even so, kudos to city Administrator Janice Allen Jackson for not letting it go just yet. After speaking with the complainants, she found that “the matter was much broader in scope than it first appeared. After those conversations, it was apparent that I needed to begin my own investigation.”
We don’t know precisely what that means; Jackson won’t say. And we don’t know what she’ll find; she isn’t through investigating. But at this point, she certainly appears to be a stand-up gal — knowing full well that her refusal to let loose of the incident may indeed ruffle some feathers.
And even though the sheriff’s office says there’s no there there. One official said the department “can’t act on fantasy, rumor and iuenndo.”
Nobody’s asking that. And maybe that’s all there is. But for her part Jackson, at this point, isn’t willing to say everything is kosher.
We’ve seen more than our share of them — and we can tell you that few public officials would be so dogged in digging to find the truth. Very few would care enough.
In addition, Jackson says “we are evaluating other measures that we can implement. As a result of this incident, I am re-evaluating policies, procedures, and use of technology in an effort to tighten our controls and enforcement.”
Further, she says that even before this incident came to light, a “whistleblower policy” was being drafted, which should assure residents “that Augusta welcomes assistance in identifying potential concerns of this nature, and that we are committed to high standards of ethical, moral and legal business conduct.”
Jackson’s reaching out to whistleblowers — she even participated in a recent Facebook chat with citizen watchdogs — is particularly important, given Richmond County’s sometimes unimpressive dedication to openness and responsiveness to the public. A fact Jackson, herself, takes note of.
“I have learned during my tenure as administrator,” she told us in an email, “that our community has a longstanding reputation for less than ethical behavior and the public meets just about everything with suspicion. Gaining trust ‘is more than a notion,’ as my late mother would say. While this incident presents a particularly challenging situation that has reaffirmed the suspicions of some, I am hopeful that our willingness to be transparent and look for answers has made it clear that we are serious about changing that reputation.”
We sincerely appreciate her approach — and her approachiveness — and eagerly await her findings.
Not everyone will, she may find out.