Whistleblowers Change the Tune


Photo Credit: Elizabeth Posey, Bear Witness

It didn’t take long for Stacey Brown to realize that something fishy was going on at Draeger Construction Co., where she worked as the business operations manager. Brown, who is on the district school board, realized Draeger was colluding with its competitors to fix market prices. Many of her co-workers knew about these corrupt practices, but none had the courage to speak out.“They didn’t cover it up,” Brown said. “They were very proud of all the ways that they cheated their customers.”

Another company’s audit triggered an investigation by law enforcement, requiring information on the inside of the charges against her company, investigators turned to Brown.

That’s when she blew the whistle.

Her decision led to a conviction inside her company and the recovery of most of the money that had been defrauded.

A whistleblower is an insider who exposes corrupt, unethical, or illegal activity in an organization. They are usually protected from retaliation, and in larger cases, their identity may be withheld.
The practice of whistleblowing is in the news because of revelations regarding the alleged quid pro quo – Latin for a favor granted in exchange for something else – between President Donald J. Trump and the government of the Ukraine. According to a whistleblower in the intelligence community, the president withheld military aid pending the Ukraine’s agreement to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden —a potential opponent of Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

Brown’s situation bears similarities to the current whistleblower. Both whistleblowers went to authorities qualified to deal with the situation. Both were protected by law, but nonetheless faced retaliation from their accusers.

The Trump whistleblower is “an incredibly patriotic American” who took action “at personal risk,” Brown said. “I think that’s a sign that every- thing is working the way it’s supposed to work.”
A whistleblower’s actions have consequences. A year or two after the action against her company was settled, it declared bankruptcy and shut down. The federal whistleblower’s complaint, of course, led the U.S. House of Representatives to initiate an impeachment investigation against President Trump.

Corruption exposed by a whistleblower is usually settled in a local court of law. Corruption in government might go all the way to the Supreme Court. Government whistleblowers usually have more protection from retaliation and sometimes remain anonymous. Mark Felt, also known as “Deep Throat,” the whistleblower that famously exposed crucial information that led to Nixon’s resignation in 1974, did not reveal his identity until 2005.
The impeachment inquiry against Trump was launched Sept. 24 by Nancy Pelosi. Beyond the situation with the Ukraine, it will explore potential abuses of power and any other actions by the President that are deemed impeachable. On Halloween, the House voted in favor of starting public hearings, which started Nov. 13.

There are three steps to impeaching the president. The first is Congress deciding to investigate, which has already happened. In the second step, the president is impeached, but not removed from office if the majority of Congress votes in favor of impeachment. The final step is removal from office if at least two-thirds of the Senate votes in favor of removal.Many people question if the Senate will get enough votes to remove Trump if the investigation reaches that point, since it is still Republican majority. Social science teacher Brett Johanson shares the same uncertainty. “I think impeachment [from the House] has a very good chance of happening, because the House is controlled by Democrats,” he said. “They, I think already in their minds, know that they’re going to impeach. So they have the numbers for impeachment,” Johanson said. “What’s still questionable is whether we’ll see removal from office [by the Senate].”

Brown believes there’s a lesson to be learned from both her situation and the current whistleblower’s. “When you see something that doesn’t sit right, say something and do something about it,” she said. “Transparency — sunshine — is
the best disinfectant.”