• External Contributor

The tale of a whistle-blower

I used to work for a mid-sized, fairly well-known charity in the human services sector. The organisation supports a vulnerable group of Australians, which is what drew me in in the first place. When I applied for the position, I was a few months out of uni, had been made redundant from my permanent position, and was struggling to keep up with freelance work (spoiler: I was charging most of my clients too little and putting up with too much).

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

When I found this job, I thought it looked pretty interesting. After some research, I noticed a strong affiliation with well-known conservative political groups. As someone who self-identifies with the progressive, this was a tiny red flag. A little voice in my head whispered a warning.

I ignored the warning (and the flag), and applied. I got an interview. When I arrived at the offices, I was led to a waiting room, where I sat and immediately noticed a notoriously conservative newspaper folded on the table. A headline disparaging pro-choice protestors was plastered across the top of the paper. The little voice spoke a bit louder.

I nailed the interview, really liked the two people who interviewed me, and accepted the job when it was later offered. I silenced the voice.

A few months after my first day, I started to notice some cracks in the organisation. The culture was quite toxic and lots of people worked late nights and weekends. People were resigning every week, and I heard lots of people complaining about work and management in the corridors. I planned to stay for one year maximum.

The CEO had been away on holidays when I first started, and when I met him I was somewhat taken aback by his moderately maniacal presence. I began hearing things about him. People said he was a liar, that he hired based on nepotism, that he had been caught embezzling at a previous workplace.

I began Googling him on evenings and weekends, curious about these claims and their validity. Even though I hadn’t warmed to him in the slightest, I knew better than to believe everything I had heard. After a few weeks of casual Googling, I hit the jackpot.

He had changed his name.

There were pages and pages of news articles, bios, and social pages. I found four company records filed under his previous name in the US. One of the companies seemed very familiar. It was a training organisation for adults, somewhat of a one-stop-shop for university graduates who were seeking a career change.

It was almost an identical business plan to one he had pitched in a meeting at my organisation. And the business in the US had been uncovered as a total scam by a couple of journalists in local news outlets.

This man had lied about his experience, training, and life.

I felt fury and a strong sense of injustice bubbling up inside me. I had to do something. I had seen him fire excellent employees for no apparent reason and hire his friends in their place.

I knew there was a whistleblower protection policy at the organisation, but I didn’t trust it for a moment. His friends worked all over the org, he had made sure of that. I didn’t know who I could go to without being at risk of getting walked out the door like so many before me had.

I created a plan.

I won’t lie, it felt like I was in Ocean's 8 and I bloody loved it. I engaged the services of an accomplice (my roommate) and we chose a date. When the date came around, we collated all of the news articles and records that incriminated him.

We saved them all as PDFs on a USB stick and went to an internet café in the dead of night (7:30pm) to distribute them. We created a burner email address, attached all the documents to a huge group email and sent it to the organisation’s entire management team and the Board.

We then went to Officeworks and printed off one copy of each document and put it in an envelope. Wearing gloves (mostly for the comedic value), we addressed and stamped the documents, but we didn’t put it in a post box.

We drove to the offices under the cover of darkness (and black hoodies, at my request), and put it in the mailbox. We wanted it to appear to have come in the post, but didn’t want to wait for the snail mail. The hard copy was simply the garnish on what I thought was a well-thought out takedown.

And I was right.

At work the following day, there was a sense of tension among management. I didn’t find out what went down that day, but I can tell you the CEO soon left his post ‘to spend more time with his family’.

He’s gone quiet since then. I will occasionally still Google him when lying in bed or on a walk, but I haven’t found another speck of controversy since that day. I’m not naïve enough to think he’s changed for the better though, I just haven’t found out his latest name.