Got a hot tip about something nefarious happening in Providence City Hall?
Internal Auditor Gina Costa hopes you’ll call a whistleblower hotline beginning later this year.
The city’s Board of Contract and Supply has been accepting bids for a one-year contract (with a three-year option for renewal) for “whistleblower hotline software.” Costa’s office has budgeted $25,000 for the initiative.
”No one follows the city charter,” Costa declared. She has long thought a confidential hotline would allow city employees to flag potential wrongdoing, although anyone will be eligible to send in tips.
Costa said Council President Rachel Miller supports the proposal, and the council may even consider approving an ordinance tied to the hotline to establish more formal investigatory guidelines. Costa’s office would handle whistleblower complaints.
A layer of context: There is already a police department in Providence to handle criminal complaints, and the city has its own Ethics Commission, although the latter has functioned in fits and starts since it was impaneled in 2015 under former mayor Jorge Elorza.
Costa points to an ongoing forensic review of the city’s towing contracts as an example of a case where a hotline would have been helpful. Her frustration that various agencies ignore the city charter is clear. She has long clashed with the law department under current solicitor Jeff Dana.
But there will be some question about whether the juice is worth the squeeze. Even Costa acknowledges that she believes employees will be hesitant to call the hotline out of fear they’ll be considered rats.
There also will be concerns about the independence of investigations. The internal auditor is elected to a four-year term by the City Council, and for many years the office was used as part auditor/part attack dog against multiple mayoral administrations by former Finance Committee chairman John Igliozzi. But Igliozzi is no longer on the council, and things have changed under Miller’s leadership.
It’s unclear if Mayor Brett Smiley supports creating the hotline. A spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
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