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Choose the right avenue for your disclosure

So, your case is ready, you have legal counsel, you have family support, now to whom do you make your disclosure. All your potential allies in this action will have mixed motives, and some of their motives may not be in accord with yours. You should carefully analyze your options before you step out into the public with your allegations.

But without regard to who you choose as a venue for disclosure, you should make sure you only disclose the information you need to support your case. Your negotiation with your disclosure partner should include confidentiality for you (and others) is that is possible. And you should be concerned to make you disclosure in a way that minimizes disruption to your organization, if possible. Remember, information is your main resource in a whistleblowing disclosure, and once you have released it to someone else, you may have little control over it.

Here are some risks and benefits of disclosure to different parties.

Governmental agencies. Some governmental agencies are especially equipped with hotlines for whistleblowers. Since they were working for a private company that had a contract with the military, Goodearl and Ibarra made their disclosures to the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Military. Legal counsel can help you in deciding if there is such a special reporting agency for your circumstance. Government agencies certainly oversee a great deal of business in the United States, and this oversight varies from country to country. These agencies can often be the most effective allies in your campaign. But you should be aware that they may have conflicts of interest with your disclosure. Again, legal counsel can help you in thinking this through.

Judicial Systems. For any clearly illegal activity, often state or federal district attorneys are the appropriate pathway of disclosure. But again their reasons for picking up or ignoring a case may be influenced by motives outside your own, such as case load, the need to find cases to set case law, and ambition. You will need someone you knows the ground here to advise you about this option.

Legislators. Often local, state, or federal legislators can help you find your way to the right people to make a disclosure, or can investigate improprieties themselves. Again, mixed motives are always an issue, and elected officials are often concerned about maintaining cordial relationships with their constituencies and donors.

Advocacy groups. Advocacy groups may be able to give you good advice about who else would be a good medium for disclosure, but are usually not themselves in the place to investigate or put pressure on organizations to change.

News media. News media may give you a quick way to make your allegations public. But they will not provide sustained public pressure unless your case continues to be newsworthy during the long months that you attempt to pursue it.