Tour Stop Featuring Prominent Whistleblowers Set for Monday

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is excited to announce the continuation of its successful program, the American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability, with the first 2012 stop set for Auburn University this coming Monday, January 30. The stop will feature prominent whistleblowers Sherron Watkins (Enron scandal) and Kenneth Kendrick (peanut butter/Salmonella scandal).

GAP’s Tour is a dynamic campaign aimed at educating the public – particularly America’s university students – about the phenomenon and practice of whistleblowing. Most stops, like Auburn, are highlighted by a panel presentation featuring high profile whistleblowers discussing their experiences. This stop is being sponsored by the Auburn University School of Accountancy, and will also feature whistleblower classroom visits throughout the College of Business (including Accounting), along with roundtable discussions with faculty members from the College.

A full description of the Tour can be found at www.WhistleblowerTour.org.

Tour Director Dana Gold will moderate the panel. Stated Gold, “We’re excited to speak at Auburn University and inform students, teachers, and the public about the necessity of whistleblowers to a functioning democracy and healthy business environment.”

“The tour demonstrates to our students that an individual can stand up to corporate wrongdoing,” said DeWayne Searcy, director of the Auburn University School of Accountancy. “That it may not be easy, but it is right and just. Additionally, the tour shows our students the positives associated with being a person of integrity.”

“The tour offers our students and the public an opportunity to hear the stories of two very important whistleblowers,” said Sarah Stanwick, Taylor Associate Professor of Accounting. “Students will be able to hear firsthand about the courageous stand that these two individuals have made to speak out about what they believe is right. We are excited that they are sharing their stories with our students.

Participants for the Auburn panel presentation include:

Sherron Watkins: Watkins was Vice President of Corporate Development at Enron. She is considered by many to be the whistleblower who helped to uncover the Enron scandal in 2001, as she alerted then-CEO Ken Lay to accounting irregularities within the company, warning him that Enron “might implode in a wave of accounting scandals.” She later testified before congressional committees investigating Enron’s demise. Watkins was named one of TIME Magazine’s 2002 Persons of the Year.
Ken Kendrick: Between September 1, 2008 and April 20, 2009, Salmonella-tainted peanut butter originating from Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) plants sickened 714 people across 46 states, contributing to nine deaths. Prior to the outbreak, Kendrick, the former PCA assistant plant manager in Plainview (TX), had made multiple attempts to alert both state and federal officials to numerous public health violations he was witnessing. Although the widespread Salmonella contamination was traced to PCA’s Georgia plant, it was Kendrick’s whistleblowing on Good Morning America that belied the company’s defense that the batch of peanut butter from the Georgia plant was an unexpected and isolated event. Kendrick made clear that PCA’s entire business was based upon risking the health of consumers in order to protect profits.

The panel presentation will take place at 7:30 p.m. at 113A Lowder Hall, and is free to attend. The public and members of the press are welcome.

The Auburn University stop is the first of at least ten that GAP plans to hold during the current academic year. The Tour kicked off last September at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with nearly 2,000 students in attendance. That event, and the subsequent two (University of Texas at Austin, Brandeis) have all been rousing successes.

Goals of the Tour include raising awareness about the vital role whistleblowing has in our democracy, preparing America’s youth for ethical decision-making, countering negative connotations associated with whistleblowing, connecting prospective whistleblowers to available resources, and encouraging academic studies of whistleblowing.

Impetus

In February 2010, GAP teamed up with film production company Participant Media and the Manhattan venue Paley Center for the Media to produce the definitive television presentation on whistleblowing – Anyone Can Whistle: The Essential Role of the Whistleblower in American Society. The event, watched online live by thousands, was the first-ever special explaining and celebrating the role of whistleblowers in our culture. Hosted by Juan Williams (then of NPR), and featuring whistleblower heroes such as Daniel Ellsberg, Frank Serpico, Coleen Rowley and others, the program examined the six stages of the typical whistleblowing experience, celebrated the courage of whistleblowers, and decried the lack of adequate legal protections.

More importantly, the presentation educated the public on the practice of whistleblowing. Through the American Whistleblower Tour, we hope to expand upon the goals and the energy that emerged from this past event.

For members of the press to reserve a spot at the panel event, please contact Sarah Stanwick at Auburn (contact info below). For more information about the Tour, contact GAP Communications Director Dylan Blaylock.

Contact: Sarah Stanwick, Auburn University
Phone: 334.844.6205
Email: sstanwick@business.auburn.edu

Contact: Dylan Blaylock, Communications Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 137, cell 202.236.3733
Email: dylanb@whistleblower.org

Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

#############