Our office will be closed on Monday, May 27, 2024, in observance of Memorial Day.

Brandon J. Patty 
St. Johns County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller

4010 Lewis Speedway
St. Augustine, FL  32084
Tel: (904) 819-3600

Fraud, Waste and Abuse Policy

Hotline: (866) 272-4351

Address:
SJC Clerk of Court & Comptroller
Attn: Inspector General/Public Integrity Unit
4010 Lewis Speedway
St. Augustine, FL 32084

Email:
fwa@stjohnsclerk.com
inspector_general@stjohnsclerk.com


I. POLICY

The St. Johns County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller’s (SJC COCC) Fraud, Waste and Abuse Policy has been established to facilitate the prevention, detection, and reporting of fraud, waste and abuse involving the SJC COCC and County government. The policy is designed to:

● Prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse as defined in § 11.45(1), Fla. Stat.
● Promote and encourage compliance with applicable laws, policies, procedures, rules, contracts, grant agreements, and best practices.
● Support efficient and effective governmental operations.
● Safeguard assets.
● Enhance the public trust.

II. PURPOSE

This directive provides for the implementation of the SJC COCC’s Fraud, Waste and Abuse Policy.

III. SCOPE

This directive is applicable to all employees of the SJC COCC and applies to all employees, vendors, consultants, contractors, and all other outside agencies/parties doing business with, or seeking to do business with, the SJC COCC.

The Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller has authorized the Office of Inspector General (OIG) to make investigations into St. Johns County affairs in the same manner, and under the same policies, as are applied within the SJC COCC to include the administration of oaths, conducting interviews, compelling the production of books, papers, data, and any other evidence material to said inquiry

IV. DEFINITIONS

A. “Fraud” means to obtain something of value through willful misrepresentation, including, but not limited to, intentional misstatements or intentional omissions of amounts or disclosures in financial statements to deceive users of financial statements, theft of an entity’s assets, bribery, or the use of one’s position for personal enrichment through the deliberate misuse or misapplication of an organization’s resources. See § 11.45(1)(e) Fla. Stat. This may include, but is not limited to, any dishonest act including forgery or alteration of any document; misappropriation of funds or supplies; improper handling or reporting of money or financial transactions; profiting oneself 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 St. Johns County for personal benefit; and/or any similar or related irregularity.

B. “Waste” means the act of using or expending resources unreasonably, carelessly, extravagantly, or for no useful purpose. See § 11.45(1)(m) Fla. Stat. This may include the unnecessary incurring of costs resulting from inefficient practices, systems, or controls.

C. “Abuse” means behavior that is deficient or improper when compared with behavior that a prudent person would consider a reasonable and necessary operational practice given the facts and circumstances. The term includes the misuse of authority or position for personal gain. See § 11.45(1)(a) Fla. Stat. Abuse may include violations and circumventions of laws, rules, contracts, departmental or agency regulations, or best practices, which impair the effective and efficient execution of operations.

V. INVESTIGATIVE RESPONSIBILITIES

A. The OIG has the primary responsibility for investigating all concerns and complaints of fraud, waste, and abuse as defined in this policy. The following procedures are established to assure the effective and efficient administration of this policy, to promote the prevention of fraud, waste, and abuse; enhance accountability in government; and to create an environment in which employees and/or citizens are encouraged and comfortable in reporting suspected violations.

B. The OIG, through the authorization of the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, is authorized to make investigations into St. Johns County affairs and for that purpose may administer oaths; take testimony; compel the production of books, papers, records, data regardless of form; and other evidence material to said inquiry.

VI. PROCEDURES

A. Making a Complaint

1. Who May File a Complaint? Any person may contact the OIG and file a complaint. The OIG may receive complaints from the public, employees, vendors, contractors, and others.

2. Where to File a Complaint? A complaint may be made directly to the OIG whenever possible. Complaints may be filed in writing, via phone, fax, email or through the web portal as follows:
Mail: Office of Inspector General
4010 Lewis Speedway
St. Augustine, FL 32084
Phone: (866) 272-4351
Fax: (904) 819-3696
E-mail: fwa@stjohnsclerk.com

B. Complainants - Confidentiality, Anonymity, and Whistle-blowers

Many complainants choose to identify themselves and provide contact information that permits the OIG to ask additional questions and follow up with the complainant as needed. The OIG’s ability to follow up and seek additional information is often a significant factor in the outcome. A complainant may request confidentiality; remain anonymous; or be determined to be a whistle-blower under applicable state law. The characteristics of each designation are as follows:

1. Confidentiality – When a complainant requests confidentiality the OIG will protect the identity of the individual to the extent permitted by law. Under state law, confidentiality may be maintained until “the audit or investigation is complete and the audit report becomes final or when the investigation is no longer active.” See §119.0713(2)(b) Fla. Stat.

2. Anonymity - When a complainant remains anonymous, they have not disclosed their identity. The OIG does receive complaints anonymously; however, we highly encourage complainants remaining anonymous to work with the OIG to establish a means of communication, to ensure OIG staff can seek additional information or receive updated information.

3. Whistle-blowers – The law in Florida protects employees from retaliatory or adverse personnel action for disclosing certain information, including, but not limited to, violations of laws that create and present a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety, or welfare and suspected acts of gross mismanagement or gross waste of public funds. These protections are detailed in §§ 112.3187-.31895 Fla. Stat. The OIG assesses every complaint for whistle-blower designation eligibility.

C. Information Needed to File a Complaint

1. While each circumstance is different, complainants are asked to provide as much factual information as possible regarding the who, what, when, where, how, and when the law, policy, or procedure was believed to have been violated. This information may include:


● Identities of the employees, vendors, contractors, or others potentially involved.
● Specific actions believed to be fraudulent, wasteful, or abusive.
● Dates and times of specific actions or observations.
● Locations where events or actions occurred.
● Vehicle information such as tag numbers, vehicle make, model, color, and other identifying information such as seals, logos, or supplemental vehicle numbers.
● Any other material that could help the OIG assess the information provided, such as photos, videos, documents, etc.

2. Complainants observing or reporting potential fraud, waste, or abuse should not attempt to conduct an investigation.

3. Where the complainant is an employee of the SJC COCC or the County, and is in a supervisory role over the individual(s) or operational area involved, the complainant should compile all relevant information and contact the OIG.

D. What Happens Next

1. Received complaints are documented through an intake process, assessed for jurisdiction, and viability. Complaints result in one of several outcomes which include:
● Investigation
● Audit
● Management Review
● Referral to another authority
● Closure with no further action, which typically occurs where the information provided does not reasonably support the allegations.

2. The OIG notifies all complainants in writing, where there is sufficient information to do so, of their complaint’s disposition.

E. Investigations

1. Investigations may take some time depending on complexity and available resources. Complainants are encouraged to remain engaged during the investigation and provide additional information that may be of assistance.

2. While an investigation is active, the OIG may provide interim reports or updates where it is determined that the SJC COCC or the County could take action to mitigate ongoing loss, liability, or mismanagement.

3. Upon completion of an investigation where allegations are substantiated, the OIG will notify the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller and the St. Johns County Administrator, as applicable, and such other County officials, as appropriate.

4. Complainants will be apprised in writing concerning the outcome of the investigation.

VII. OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL (OIG) RESPONSIBILITIES

A. Maintain a Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline, and attempt to secure as much information as possible from the reporting individual.

B. In matters involving viable criminal allegations, the OIG will consult with law enforcement agencies as necessary to coordinate, collaborate, or support those investigations or prosecutions.

C. Evaluate reported conduct pertaining to any departments of the County and such other activities/entities engaged in the expenditure of County funds.

D. Report investigative findings to the County Administrator or Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, as applicable, in an interim report. If interim findings are of a countywide nature or are otherwise significant, the Board of County Commissioners may also be notified if any of their personnel are involved.

E. Report any significant findings to the County Administrator, Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller and Board of County Commissioners, as applicable, in a final report.

F. Self-initiate investigative actions, as appropriate, based upon information received or identified by the OIG.

G. In those instances where the OIG believes it to be in the best interests of the investigation, the OIG has the authority and duty, as applicable, to:

1. Limit employee access and/or gain access to any SJC COCC and St. Johns County premises utilized by Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, whether owned or rented.

2. Examine, copy and/or remove all or any portion of the contents of any document and equipment.

3. Wherever feasible, notice will be provided in advance to the Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller and the County Administrator.

VIII. EMPLOYEE/MANAGEMENT RESPONSIBILITES

Whenever an employee or manager reasonably believes that fraud, waste, and/or abuse FWA has occurred, or is likely occurring, they shall:

A. Report the suspected activity to the OIG as soon as reasonably possible.

B. Ensure that all information related to the complaint is only discussed with those individuals who have a lawful and legitimate need to know, which may include the OIG, law enforcement, or others associated with conducting the investigation until the investigation is complete.

C. Cooperate with the investigative process by answering questions, furnishing written statements, assuring access to data, volunteering information important to the investigation, etc.

IX. LIMITATION

Nothing in this directive or policy shall be construed to interfere with, limit, restrict or otherwise impair the St. Johns County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Management or any official’s ability to manage, train, assign or discipline their employees.

Public Integrity Unit

Hotline: (866) 272-4351

Address:
SJC Clerk of Court & Comptroller
Attn: Inspector General/Public Integrity Unit
4010 Lewis Speedway
St. Augustine, FL 32084

Email:
fwa@stjohnsclerk.com
inspector_general@stjohnsclerk.com


Policy

The St. Johns County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller’s (Clerk of Court) Fraud, Waste and Abuse (FWA) Policy was established to facilitate in the detection, prevention and reporting of fraud, waste and abuse directed against the County government. The intent of this policy is to promote awareness of the potential for fraud, waste, and abuse throughout the County and to ensure 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.

This policy is intended to communicate the Clerk of the Court’s desire to eliminate unethical practices while creating an environment in which employees and/or citizens are encouraged and comfortable in reporting fraud, waste, or abuse.

The St. Johns County Clerk of Court Office of Inspector General receives and reacts to information or anonymous tips, confidentially from employees, contractors, and members of the public. The Office of Inspector General takes seriously the responsibility to evaluate your concerns regarding fraud, waste, and abuse, and conduct investigations, when appropriate.

Florida Law protects employees from retaliatory or adverse action taken by agencies or independent contractors against an employee for reporting certain information, including, but not limited to, violations of laws which create and present a substantial and specific danger to the public’s health, safety or welfare and suspected acts of gross mismanagement or gross waste of public funds. These protections are detailed in Sections 112.3187-112.31895 of the Florida Statutes.


Purpose

This directive provides instruction and guidance for implementing the Fraud, Waste, and Abuse policy adopted by the St. Johns County Clerk of Court.


Definitions

  • 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 Responsibilities

The Clerk of Court, Office of Inspector General, has the primary responsibility for investigating all suspected inappropriate activity as defined in this policy. If the investigation substantiates that a fraudulent act has occurred, the Office of Inspector General will notify the Clerk of Court, County Administrator as applicable, and other County officials, as appropriate.

If the substantiated fraudulent act has criminal implications, the Office of Inspector General will consult with law enforcement agencies as necessary to provide findings and prepare for presentation of same in a court of law.

The Office of Inspector General, through authorization of the Clerk of Court, is hereby authorized to make investigations into St. Johns affairs and for that purpose may compel the production of books, papers, and other evidence material to said inquiry.


Confidentiality

The Office of Inspector General 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 Office of Inspector General immediately. Persons observing or suspecting dishonest or fraudulent activity should not attempt to personally conduct an investigation related to such activity.


Procedures

A current or former St. Johns County employee who suspects Fraud, Waste and Abuse, and does not desire anonymity should:

  1. Report suspected FWA to the Office of Inspector General (FWA Hotline, email, mail).
  2. If requested, furnish a detailed written statement, outlining the suspected FWA.
  3. Cooperate with the investigative process through the furnishing of written statements, interviews, etc.

A current or former St. Johns County employee who suspects Fraud, Waste and Abuse, and wishes to remain anonymous should:

  1. Contact Office of Inspector General (FWA Hotline, email, mail) and provide as much detailed information as possible regarding the suspected FWA conduct.
  2. The caller, though anonymous, must be willing to share specific information regarding the suspected FWA conduct.

A member of the public suspecting Fraud, Waste and Abuse, is encouraged to contact the Office of Inspector General (FWA Hotline, email, mail) with specific and detailed information regarding the suspected fraudulent conduct.

A supervisor or higher authority receiving an FWA allegation should:

  1. Compile all information relayed by reporting individual.
  2. Contact the Office of Inspector General with all compiled information.
  3. Cooperate with the investigative audit process.

The Office of Inspector General will:

  • Maintain a Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline and attempt to secure as much information as possible from the reporting individual.
  • Contact law enforcement, if applicable, and provide fraud, waste and abuse information for consideration as to their involvement in the case.
  • Evaluate reported conduct pertaining to any and all departments of St. Johns County and such other activities/entities engaged in the expenditure of County funds.
  • Report investigative findings to the Clerk of Court in an interim report. If interim findings are of a countywide nature or are otherwise significant, the County Administrator and/or BCC may also be notified.
  • Report any significant findings to the Clerk of Court and, if applicable, the County Administrator and/or BCC in a final report.
  • Work with law enforcement, if determined necessary during the course of the investigation and refer applicable findings to appropriate authorities upon completion.
  • In those instances where the Office of Inspector General believes it to be in the best interests of the investigation, the Office of Inspector General has the authority and duty, after consulting with the Clerk of Court, as applicable, to take control or limit employee access to all County access or equipment and to examine, copy and/or remove all or any portion of the contents of any document and equipment.


Management/Employee Responsibilities

  • Due care must be taken in the investigation of suspected improprieties or irregularities so as to avoid mistaken accusations or alerting suspected individuals that an investigation is underway.
  • All inquiries from suspected individuals and their attorneys or representatives should be directed to the Office of Inspector General. An appropriate 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 should not discuss the case, facts, suspicions, or allegations with anyone outside the organization or those within the organization who do not have a legitimate need to know unless specifically asked to do so by the Office of Inspector General or law enforcement.
  • Management/employees are required to cooperate with the investigative process by answering questions, furnishing written statements, volunteering information important to the investigation, etc.
  • All departments/employees under the Clerk of the Court and Board of County Commissioners are required to comply with this policy.


Limitation

Nothing in this policy shall be construed to interfere with, limit, restrict or otherwise impair Clerk of Court’s or any official’s ability to manage, train, assign or discipline their employees.

St. Johns County Clerk of Court