Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS THE OFFICE OF THE CONTROLLER'S WHISTLEBLOWER PROGRAM?
San Francisco Charter Appendix F1.107 directs the Office of the Controller to administer a whistleblower program and investigate complaints concerning the following:
Deficiencies in the quality and delivery of city government services:
Anyone who has relevant information, including city employees, city contractors, and city residents.
DO I NEED TO IDENTIFY MYSELF?
No. We review all complaints, including those filed anonymously, to determine whether there are any issues falling within our jurisdiction and appropriate for follow-up. However, if you choose to file anonymously, our ability to follow up on your complaint may be limited.
You are strongly advised to withhold identifying information if you fear retaliation for filing a complaint.
WILL MY IDENTITY REMAIN CONFIDENTIAL?
Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code, Article IV, section 4.123, states that the Whistleblower Program may:
WHAT COMPLAINTS ARE REFERRED FOR INVESTIGATION?
Complaints that allege a violation of law which the Office of the Controller does not have jurisdiction are directed to the appropriate agency for investigation and possible disciplinary or enforcement action. The Whistleblower Program will review each complaint to determine whether it will be referred to another appropriate department for investigation.
The Whistleblower Program shall refer the following complaints:
WHAT IF I HAVE EVIDENCE OF A CRIME?
The Whistleblower Program is not a law enforcement agency. If you believe you have evidence of a crime involving a city officer, employee, or contractor, you should report your information to an appropriate law enforcement agency. The Whistleblower Program shall refer allegations of conduct which may constitute a violation of criminal law to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
WHAT DOES THE WHISTLEBLOWER PROGRAM EXPECT FROM COMPLAINANTS?
The Whistleblower Program encourages you to file your complaint in writing. Generally, you should submit your complaint within 90 days of the date the alleged wrongdoing occurred. Your complaint should include, if applicable:
Upon receiving a complaint, the Whistleblower Program may conduct an investigation into the facts alleged in the complaint to determine whether an improper governmental activity has occurred.
While you may submit a complaint anonymously, we may not be able to determine whether your complaint has merit if we are not able to interview you. Submitting copies of any documents that will support your complaint is extremely helpful to our evaluation process. However, please submit copies of the documents rather than the original documents, as they cannot be returned. If we need the original documents, we will ask you for them later.
DOES THE WHISTLEBLOWER PROGRAM INVESTIGATE EVERY COMPLAINT IT RECEIVES THAT FALLS WITHIN ITS JURISDICTION?
No. Whistleblower Program staff will evaluate your complaint and determine if the matter warrants further inquiry. Allegations that, even if true, appear immaterial or insignificant from a monetary or operational standpoint, may be referred to the city department involved in the allegation for investigation and response.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE INVESTIGATION?
After the Whistleblower Program receives a complaint, any investigation resulting from the complaint is confidential. As a result, the Whistleblower Program staff cannot provide any updates about what is being done to investigate the complaint or what information has been uncovered.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO INVESTIGATE A COMPLAINT?
Most of our investigations are completed within 90 days. However, investigations can take longer depending on several factors, including the complexity of the complaint and the number of allegations made.
CAN I DISCUSS THE MATTER WITH FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES?
To protect your confidentiality and the confidentiality of the investigation, it is advisable not to discuss the matter with friends and colleagues.
CAN I WITHDRAW MY COMPLAINT ONCE IT IS FILED WITH THE WHISTLEBLOWER PROGRAM?
No. Once you file a complaint, you cannot withdraw the complaint or prevent the Whistleblower Program from proceeding with an investigation.
WILL I BE INFORMED ABOUT THE STATUS OF MY ALLEGATIONS?
Generally, no. If you have given us your name and contact information, we will contact you if we need further information in order to follow up on your allegation. Pursuant to our rules, information acquired or developed as part of an investigation is treated as confidential. If our office does not require additional information during the review of your allegations, you will not be contacted by our office.
Information about the investigation will not be released unless the Whistleblower Program substantiates that an improper activity has occurred. In this case, limited information about the issue will appear in a Whistleblower Program report, keeping confidential the identities of the individuals involved.
CAN I REQUEST THAT A COMPLAINT BE REOPENED?
Yes. If you have new information to support your allegations, the closure of your complaint may be reconsidered. If, on the other hand, you are merely unhappy because you do not agree with the decision to close your complaint, the Whistleblower Program will not conduct another investigation.
CAN I SUNSHINE YOUR INVESTIGATION WORK PRODUCT?
No. Under Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code Section 4.123(a)(ii), every officer and employee of the city shall keep confidential complaints or reports to the Whistleblower Program and information related to the investigation of the matter, including drafts, notes, preliminary reports, working papers, records of interviews, communications with complainants and witnesses, and any other materials and information gathered or prepared in the course of the investigation.
AM I ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE A REWARD IF MY WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT IS SUSTAINED?
No. The City and County of San Francisco does not offer a reward for sustained whistleblower complaints.
WILL THE WHISTLEBLOWER PROGRAM ASSIST ME IN RESOLVING A COMPLAINT IF I AM DISSATISFIED WITH A DECISION MADE BY A CITY DEPARTMENT OR EMPLOYEE THAT INVOLVES ME?
No. The Whistleblower Program will not act as an advocate for individuals in their disputes with city departments or employees. Many city departments have administrative processes that you may use to appeal decisions they make that affect you. If you pursue these processes and are still dissatisfied, you may wish to consider obtaining private legal counsel. The Whistleblower Program cannot and will not give legal advice.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I EXPERIENCE RETALIATION BECAUSE I FILED A COMPLAINT?
The Whistleblower Program does not investigate complaints of retaliation, as that responsibility has been assigned to the San Francisco Ethics Commission. If you believe you are the victim of retaliation as a result of filing a complaint with the Whistleblower Program, please contact the Ethics Commission immediately.