Wanted: City Whistle-Blowers

During a probe into the financial dealings of Robert Evans, the assistant to City Manager Calvin Jamison who allegedly funneled more than $500,000 to two shell companies operated by himself and a friend, Kronzer ran into a series of walls.

“Some of the people that I spoke with … were uncomfortable passing the information up the line,” Kronzer says. “The city needs a formal whistle-blowing process where people are encouraged to report things that are questionable. There is nothing in the city policy that protects them.”

Kronzer has set up a special hotline (646-5697) for citizens and employees to report “suspected unlawful acts” confidentially.

Chester Brazzell, the city’s director of human resources, says he’s not sure whether the city needs an official policy. “We think we have some good policies in place,” he says.

Employees are encouraged to report funny business to their immediate supervisors, Brazzell says. If that doesn’t work, he says they are to report it to their department head, city attorney or city auditor.

Neither Chesterfield nor Henrico County has an official policy.

A formal policy, however, reinforces good ethics, says Ron Humphrey, a management professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s school of business. In the post-Enron corporate world, more companies are encouraging employees not only to report fraudulent behavior, but also to report inefficiencies and waste. Government should do the same, Humphrey says.

“The more they have open communications, the less likely they are going to have ethical problems,” he says. “Government should be a role model for the rest of us.”

City Mayor Rudy McCollum says he’ll wait to decide whether a whistle-blowing policy is needed.

By press time last week, federal prosecutors had yet to charge anyone in the latest blowup. Evans, Jamison’s assistant, allegedly directed more than $500,000 from City Council’s capital projects fund to two companies that existed only on paper. Invoices indicated the money was used for things like mowing grass and debris removal, but investigators say that the work was never done.

One tipoff for investigators: The invoices were signed by former council members Sa’ad El-Amin and the late Joe Brooks in July of this year. At the time, Brooks was deceased, and El-Amin had resigned from council.

City Councilman Manoli Loupassi plans to introduce a paper establishing an official whistle-blowing policy at City Hall. “We’re probably going to have to change the procurement process, too,” Loupassi says. — Scott Bass


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