New Bill Could Provide Whistleblower Hotline

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Tri-Valley Herald

A former Livermore Lab security officer who was fired in August testified this week in support of proposed state legislation that would offer assistance to whistleblowers.

Senate Bill 1452, introduced by state Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Montebello, would provide a “Whistleblower Hotline” within the office of the Attorney General to receive reports on employers’ violations of state or federal rules and regulations.

Mathew Zipoli, vice president of the Livermore Lab Security Police Officers Association — a labor union representing about 140 security officers who guard the nuclear weapons facility — said in Tuesday testimony that he supports added protection for whistleblowers.

“The public will be better protected by protecting those who are willing to come forward with information about their employers’ dangerous and unethical practices,” he said.

Lab officials have said that Zipoli and Charles Quinones, president of the lab officers’ labor group, were fired in August for organizing a labor action.

But both officers have said they believe that the terminations may be in retaliation for reporting safety and security issues to federal officials. They initiated lawsuits against lab managers in January.

“We feel the best thing we can do is help others (to avoid) the same turmoil that we did,” Zipoli said Wednesday.

“Whistleblowers are your first line of defense against disaster and corruption within the workplace — you need people to come forward.” He actively supports proposed federal whistleblower legislation.

Zipoli said he is worried that his termination at the lab is affecting his plans to continue a career in law enforcement.

In addition to establishing a hotline for whistleblower reports, the state Senate bill would protect employees who report a violation of a state or federal rule or refuse to participate in any unlawful activity.

The proposed bill also would add civil penalties for violations of whistleblower laws.

In an analysis of the proposed legislation, the California Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill, because it appears to violate the Fifth Amendment by making it a crime for business officials not to notify the state Attorney General about actions of financial fraud “that their company has taken or will take.”

But the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, the sponsor of the bill, argued in favor. “(The bill) would protect whistleblowers from retaliation and hold executives accountable for financial fraud.”

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