The St. Johns County Clerk of the Circuit & County Court’s (Clerk of Court) Fraud, Abuse and Waste Unit (FAW) is interested in receiving information confidentially from employees, contractors and members of the public. Our responsibility is to receive and evaluate your concerns regarding fraud, abuse, and waste, and when appropriate, conduct an investigation.
The intent of this policy is to enhance compliance with the principles of right and wrong which govern the conduct of County employees, vendors, consultants, contractors and all other outside agencies/parties doing business with St. Johns County.
It is the intent of the Legislature to prevent agencies or independent contractors from taking retaliatory action against an employee who reports to an appropriate agency violations of law on the part of a public employer or independent contractor that create a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare. It is further the intent of the Legislature to prevent agencies or independent contractors from taking retaliatory action against any person who discloses information to an appropriate agency alleging improper use of governmental office, gross waste of funds, or any other abuse or gross neglect of duty on the part of an agency, public officer, or employee. These protections are detailed in Sections 112.3187-112.31895 of the Florida Statutes.
This directive provides instruction and guidance for implementing the Fraud, Abuse and Waste policy adopted by the St. Johns County Clerk of Court.
- Fraud – a dishonest and intentional course of action that results in obtaining money, property, or an advantage to which the individual committing the action would not normally be entitled. Fraud refers to, but is not limited to, any dishonest or fraudulent act to include forgery or alteration of any document; misappropriation of funds, supplies, etc.; improper handling or reporting of money or financial transactions; profiting by self or others as a result of inside knowledge; destruction or intentional disappearance of records, furniture, fixtures or equipment; accepting or seeking anything of material value from vendors or persons providing services or materials to the County for personal benefit; and/or any similar or related irregularity.
- Waste – the needless, careless, or extravagant expenditure of County funds, incurring of unnecessary expense, or misuse of County resources or property.
- Abuse – the intentionally wrongful or improper use of County resources that can include the excessive or improper use of one’s position, in a manner contrary to its rightful or legally intended use.
Investigative Audit Responsibilities
The Clerk of Court has the primary responsibility for investigative audits of suspected inappropriate activity as defined in this policy. If the investigative audit substantiates that a fraudulent act has occurred, the Auditor will notify the Clerk of Court or such other County officials, as appropriate. If the substantiated fraudulent act has criminal implications, the Auditor will notify the proper enforcement agencies, as necessary, and assist in any preparation and presentation of criminal findings in a court of law.
Audit Services, through authorization of the Clerk of Court, is hereby authorized to make investigative audits into County affairs, and for that purpose may administer oaths and compel the production of books, papers and other evidence material to said inquiry.
Audit Services treats all information received confidentially, to the extent allowed by law. Any employee, citizen, contractor, vendor, or other interested party who has observed or suspects dishonest or fraudulent activity should notify the FAW Unit immediately. Persons observing or suspecting dishonest or fraudulent activity should not attempt to personally conduct an investigation related to such activity.
Current or former St. Johns County employee who suspects fraud, abuse or waste and does not desire anonymity should:
- Report the suspected FAW to the FAW Hotline
- If requested, furnish a detailed written statement, under oath, outlining the suspected FAW.
- Cooperate with the investigative audit process though the furnishing of written statements, interviews, etc.
Current or former St. Johns County employee who suspects fraud, abuse or waste and wishes to remain anonymous should:
- Contact to FAW Hotline and provide as much detailed information as possible regarding the suspected fraudulent conduct.
- The caller, though anonymous, must be willing to share specific information regarding the suspected fraudulent conduct or impropriety.
Member of the public suspecting fraud, abuse or waste is encouraged to contact the FAW Hotline with specific and detailed information regarding the suspected fraudulent conduct.
Supervisor or higher authority receiving fraud, abuse or waste allegations should:
- Compile all information relayed by reporting individual.
- Contact Audit Services with all compiled information.
- Cooperate with the investigative audit process, as necessary.
- Maintain a Fraud, Abuse and Waste Hotline and attempt to secure as much information as possible from the reporting individual.
- Contact appropriate law enforcement, if applicable, and provide fraud, abuse and waste information for consideration as to their involvement in the case.
- Evaluate reported conduct pertaining to any and all departments of the County, and such other activities/entities engaged in the expenditure of County funds.
- Report investigative audit findings to the Clerk of Court in an interim report. If interim findings are of a countywide nature, involve a county employee, or are otherwise significant, the County Administrator and/or Board of County Commissioners may also be notified.
- Report any significant findings to the Clerk of Court and, if applicable, the County Administrator and/or the Board of County Commissioners in a final report.
- Work with law enforcement authorities, if determined necessary during the course of the investigative audit, and refer applicable findings to appropriate authorities upon completion.
- In those instances, where Audit Services believes it to be in the best interests of the investigative audit, Audit Services has the authority and duty, after consulting with the Clerk of Court, as applicable, to examine and/or copy all or any portion of the contents of any document.
- Due care must be taken in the investigative audit of suspected improprieties or irregularities so as to avoid mistaken accusations or alerting suspected individuals that an investigative audit is underway.
- All inquiries from suspected individuals and their attorneys or representatives should be directed to Audit Services. The proper response to such an inquiry is: “I am not at liberty to discuss this matter.”
- Under no circumstances should any reference be made to “what you did,” “the crime,” “the fraud,” “the forgery,” “the misappropriation,” or any other specific reference.
- No promises should be made.
- Management/employees should not contact the suspected individual in an effort to determine facts or demand restitution.
- Management/employees are encouraged not to discuss the case, facts, suspicions, or allegations with anyone outside the organization or those within the organization that do not have a legitimate need to know unless specifically asked to do so by Audit Services or law enforcement.
- Management/employees are to cooperate with the investigative audit process through answering questions, furnishing written statements, volunteering information important to the investigative audit, etc.
- All Clerk of Court departments/employees are required to comply with this policy.
Nothing in this directive or policy shall be construed to interfere with, limit, restrict, or otherwise impair the Clerk of Court’s or any official’s ability to manage, train, assigns or discipline their employees.