The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently broke the story of the resignation of Missouri’s Division of Tourism director.
Ward Franz’ departure came during a probe into allegations of excessive taxpayer-funded travel and improper acceptance of gifts from a state vendor, the paper reported.
An investigator in state Auditor Nicole Galloway’s office on Oct. 25 wrote to the Department of Economic Development, which oversees the tourism division. The letter outlined allegations from a whistleblower complaint that the auditor’s office had received, the Post-Dispatch reported.
In the letter, the auditor’s office said it has started a preliminary investigation to determine whether the complaint was credible. The Missouri Tourism Commission also is discussing the issue.
Regardless of what is revealed through investigations, the issue highlights the need for whistleblower protections.
Whistleblowers aren’t always going to have the right motivations and may not always be truthful. That’s why investigations are needed.
But whistleblowers — like a free press and auditors — play an important watchdog role in providing government oversight and accountability.
Here in Missouri, whistleblower protections have come under attack in the Missouri Legislature in the past. Last year, the Legislature restored some of those protections.
Without such protections, potential whistleblowers will be too fearful of retaliation to shed some light on situations that involve corruption, fraud or government waste.
We hope Missouri lawmakers never lose sight of this.