SAIPAN (MARIANAS VARIETY) — Representative Leila Staffler has introduced legislation that would protect government employees from any retaliation as a result of “blowing the whistle” on prohibited personnel practices.

The Precinct 5 Democrat said House Bill 22-83 is a response to the “years of numerous reports of retaliation and intimidation reported by constituents who work in the CNMI government.”

“People should be able to report wrongdoing in government without fear of reprisal or retribution,” Staffler added.

“Cognisant of the probable threats and/or intimidation tactics that ‘whistleblowers’ may face, it is imperative to provide them with protection measures that will protect them against any and all possible ill-intended retaliation from other employees who do not share their conscience,” her bill stated.

House Bill 22-83 would “expand existing whistle-blower protections in Commonwealth law to include the reporting of unethical or illegal activity in the government, such as coercion to participate in political activity, transferring as a form of punishment, implementing blanket non-disclosure agreements, and obstructing a person’s right to compete for employment.”

Whistleblowers protections can be provided to all those who disclose certain illegal or unethical activities, financial or non-financial, the bill stated.

“Through this legislation, my colleagues and I in the House leadership aim to raise the bar in public service employment and send a clear message that political retaliation and intimidation in our government is unacceptable,” Staffler said.

The bill would expand civil penalties imposed on those in supervisory roles who engage in prohibited personnel activities.

“Any person found in violation shall be liable to pay civil penalties ranging from $1000 to $10,000, and shall be terminated immediately,” the bill stated.

House Bill 22-83 also proposes to compensate a government whistle-blower for reporting fraud, waste, or abuse in the collection or expenditure of public funds.

Awards to whistleblowers may include at least 15%, but not more than 30% of the collected proceeds from any settlement as a result of administrative or judicial action to which the individual substantially contributed to such action, the bill stated.

The bill’s co-sponsors are Speaker Edmund Villagomez, House Floor Leader Ralph Yumul, Reps. Ed Propst, Tina Sablan, Sheila Babauta, Celina Babauta, Denita Yangetmai, Corina Magofna, Vicente Camacho, Donald Manglona and Richard Lizama…. PACNEWS

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