The St. Johns County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller’s (Clerk of Court) Fraud, Waste and Abuse (FWA) Policy has been 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 is interested in receiving 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.
This directive provides instruction and guidance regarding the Fraud, Waste and Abuse 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.
The Clerk of Court, Office of Inspector General, has the primary responsibility for investigating all suspected inappropriate activity. If the investigation substantiates that a fraudulent act has occurred, the Office of Inspector General will notify the Clerk of Court 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.
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.
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.
A current or former St. Johns County employee who suspects fraud, waste or abuse, and does not desire anonymity should:
- Report suspected FWA to the Office of Inspector General (FWA Hotline, email, mail).
- If requested, furnish a detailed written statement, outlining the suspected FWA.
- 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 or abuse, and wishes to remain anonymous should:
- Contact Office of Inspector General (FWA Hotline, email, mail) and provide as much detailed information as possible regarding the suspected FWA conduct.
- The caller, though anonymous, must be willing to share specific information regarding the suspected FWA conduct.
A member of the public suspecting fraud, waste or 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:
- Compile all information relayed by the reporting individual.
- Contact the Office of Inspector General with all compiled information.
- Cooperate with the investigative process.
- 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 examine, copy and/or remove all or any portion of the contents of any document.
- 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 misconduct,” “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.
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.