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We have been witnessing an interesting event over the last several weeks. An unknown person walked into the office of Congressman Adam Schiff and spoke with his staffers about an incident they had heard about. The controversy is: Was what they heard an illegal request because a threat was involved, or just a normal conversation between leaders of countries? Does the President’s real or perceived intent make this conversation illegal?

What we are talking about is not in contest. We know it was a telephone conversation between President Trump and the newly elected President Zelensky, of the Ukraine. We have read the “cliff notes” of the conversation and the full transcript of conversation itself. Some heard from President Zelensky that he had regarded the conversation as normal.

We do not know much about the complainant. This person has been hidden from us. Assumptions are being made that this person is a federal employee. That they have been called a whistle-blower by those the person spoke to. Are they or not?

Before we rush off to judgment, we need to know what we are talking about; preferably before talking heads begin to change the definitions that are commonly held by us all.

 

Whistle-blower” has a legal definition and can offer protections by statute (by law) or employment contracts. Depending on where you work, it will make a difference upon the protections offered. Reporting is a formal and public process in all cases. Each government agency has their own rules and knowing these rules is important. In the case we are talking about here, the rules to protect you require you report your concerns about dishonest or illegal activities to the proper federal agency, depending on who employs you. That agency determines if your concerns rise to a level to be taken forward and then refers the complaint to the appropriate authority to take it from there. The one qualification that seems to cover all whistle-blowers is; it must be voluntary, first-hand knowledge, just like in any court of law, otherwise it is just hearsay. Whistle-blower identities are not protected because in America we all have the right to face our accusers. Because whistle-blowers are firsthand reporters, they are usually vested with rights and remedies from retaliation within their government department, public company or private organization. Once again: A formal process, restricted to first-hand knowledge which offers some form of protection from retaliation. It is not a secretive process but meant to aid information about wrongdoing to be made public within a fair process, that protects the rights of all involved.

Definition of “a disgruntled employee,” a person who is discontented at his workplace, their ill-humor has usually been noticed by others. Can they use the whistle blower process to “get even” for what they perceive as injustices? The answer is yes. Whistle blowing is aptly named – that obnoxious whistle noise that gets everyone’s attention. It is disruptive, forces people to take sides openly and can jeopardize fellow workers. Interestingly, there are few positive synonyms for whistle-blower. Informant · betrayer · traitor · Judas · collaborator · double-crosser · fifth columnist · double agent · spy · infiltrator · plant · turncoat · tattletale · rat · squealer · stool pigeon · stoolie · telltale · snake in the grass · canary, are just a few.

The most difficult determination in a whistle-blower case: Is there substantive evidence to justify the whistle-blower’s claims, regardless of the complainant’s motives? In order to have a just outcome all of the laws and safety procedures must be followed – not made up to fit the purposes of a political party, agency, or entity. Time will tell whether or not this is a legitimate action of a whistle-blower, or just a disgruntled employee working to throw a wrench in the gears of people or politicians they disagree with or dislike.

`Lorraine Newman