The Whistle Blower Handbook Series (Author Interview)


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https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/selah-shaun-randolph/1143930668?ean=9798857168172


What inspired you to write Selah and share your story with the world?

At first writing Selah was a sort of therapeutic exercise. As many people can imagine, going through workplace “drama” in and of itself can be anxiety-inducing, so to go the route of becoming a full-blown whistleblower was traumatic to say the least.

I started writing Selah maybe 2-3 months into the process and the words just flowed. Every intricate emotion, every detail… writing the book helped me reduce my stress, helped me sleep at night and even helped me to remember small pieces of information as I reported things to investigators.

I think it’s also important to share that there were several versions of Selah. The first version was very angry, vengeful and frankly over the top. Then maybe a few weeks after writing a particular chapter, I’d re-write it into something closer to its final version that had more of a autobiographical feel. Then in the final writing phase, I decided that I wanted to not just tell the story but share what happened in a way that would support and /or prepare others like me. That’s when the “Whistleblower Handbook” concept was born.

 

How did you navigate the risks of revealing political greed without disclosing specific names and organizations?

Well… technically I had to first learn the hard way. You see, although the book itself didn’t mention names or organizations, I definitely called out people by name in a few interviews I did as everything was unfolding. At one point in time, the Board of Directors that I was initially at odds with was removed from their positions, by their own official votes no less. What sparked my initial fiery response was because that group of people deleted official Board minutes as well as a recorded Zoom meeting where they took an official Board vote removing themselves from their roles in response to the evidence I brought against them. After getting rid of the proof of their removal, they “fired me”.

I share all that to say, I did a number of interviews after the “firing” to let the community know what was going on and I named names. The interview I’m mentioning is actually still available on Spotify from the radio station that hosted it. It’s quite entertaining but it also got me sued.

As I said, there were several versions of Selah and I imagine while I was being sued, that was when I decided to integrate the idea of switching out real names for the names of chess pieces.

 

Can you describe the emotional and psychological impact of being a whistleblower, based on your experiences outlined in Selah?

Transparently, I could sum it up by just saying PTSD... Going beyond that, I think the emotional element of it all varies depending on the person. I would imagine that some people experience it through sadness or even depression. I think others may experience a real and agonizing fear especially if the person or people being exposed are in powerful positions. For me, the primary emotion was rage. I was disgusted (and sometimes still am) with the entire situation. I couldn’t fathom how the leaders and political stakeholders of an organization that had so much potential to do good were so short-sighted and selfish to just see it as a vehicle for political or monetary gain. I was offended just as much by their breach of trust with the community as I was with their actions in retaliation toward me. Whether its rage, depression or fear, emotion that runs that high makes it hard to sleep as a whistleblower.

Psychologically, the impact may have been even more intense. In my younger years, I was into boxing heavy. I had a trainer, went to spar at gyms and even considered dropping out of school to pursue Team USA + Golden Gloves opportunities. My point is this, my trained instinct isn’t just to hit back, it’s to attack when I even sense someone winding up for a punch. Imagine having instincts like that in the midst of a situation where you are being absolutely pummeled by legal, emotional and financial blows. I felt constantly under attack. Not to mention, I was further triggered by the fact that my family was also being impacted by all this as well. To be honest, Selah was the closest thing I had to a healthy counterpunch and there’s a real possibility that had I not had that outlet… I think my therapist would advise that I take a breath now and keep the rest to myself.

 

In Selah, you liken your experience to a chess match involving multiple players and unconventional rules. How did this analogy help you strategize your moves in real life?

Great question. I think the biggest example of the chess analogy playing out in real life was how I “managed” the various investigations. My role as a whistleblower was initially sparked when I voluntarily called the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) hotline. Within 5 minutes of being on that call, some pretty high level people were brought onto the phone and I was being asked if I would be willing to support their work in a big way. After the OIG, came the FBI and after the FBI came private investigators that were hired for a City Council led investigation. I learned that each agency or firm had its own objectives, its own jurisdiction and its own limitations. Furthermore, they were all completely independent. Although they were each a resource to me and vice versa, I didn’t control or direct them. A piece of information that was valuable to one agency may be completely worthless to another… but getting out all the information was valuable to me. At its’ peak, the chess analogy in action involved me pouring over all the evidence I had access to and categorizing it based on agency (which agency it was most relevant to), completeness (what information was “actionable”) and time sensitivity (what information was fully baked and ready to share). So, although I was completely up front with all investigatory efforts, there were times where I had pieced together a more complete piece of information but I would hold it until the opposing lawyers threatened me again or until a certain article in the media was released, etc. The most fulfilling counterpunch is the one your opponent doesn’t see coming. For me, that took place on the day of my TRO hearing. All the Mayor’s cronies had filled the opposing side of the courtroom to watch some fool who opted to represent himself (that would be me) get pummeled legally and they got their money’s worth. HOWEVER, there was a single individual who sat on my side of the courtroom and I didn’t even know who he was. I would later learn and observe that within seconds of that hearing being adjourned, he walked over to the opposition’s legal team and served them with a subpoena from the OIG. Although I wasn’t fully aware of what was happening at the time, in hindsight, I have the satisfaction of remembering the smiles melt off their faces as their lawyers opened the paperwork that he placed in their hands. How’s that for chess…

 

How does Selah serve as a masterclass for readers unfamiliar with the workings of political corruption?

Selah pulls the veil back from what readers assume when they read about corruption in the media versus what it looks like in real life. Based on my experience, corruption is rarely a single transaction. It’s usual a system that is created or pre-existing and that system can be subtly leveraged for political, financial or even personal purposes.

If someone were to Google the Mayor’s name right now, they would see investigation coverage on her use of a City-owned apartment (personal gain). If they read through some of the documents featured in my second book, “Worth A Thousand Words”, they would see how payments were directed to members of her political team who simultaneously served as contractors to the nonprofit (financial gain). Let me make a quick note, when people hear financial gain they assume a check being put into a politicians’ pocket. I’ve learned that it’s equally as valuable to simply leverage and use OPM (other people’s money) to pay bills you’d otherwise have to pay yourself. Moving on, both my first and second books highlight that what I uncovered could certainly be categorized as a “shadow government” which I would define as a web of inter-connected organizations that when mobilized in unity can wield staggering political influence.

These are just some nuggets from the masterclass.

 

What role does your faith play in both your decision to blow the whistle and how you've coped with the aftermath, as described in Selah?

Another great question. I wouldn’t necessarily say my faith played a significant role in the decision to blow the whistle. I can think of many cases where people have and would have made the same decision regardless of a faith component. That said, my faith has played an outsized role in the aftermath. Not to be controversial or anything but I think the concept of faith has been watered down and simplified to refer to what or who a person believes in. When I reference faith, I’m specifically referring to the gift of being able to tap into, lean on and walk with a higher power / person. And here’s what ought to make faith controversial, if your faith doesn’t result in a supernatural outcome, then what good is it? For me, I genuinely don’t believe that I would be here, in my right mind (for the most part, lol), and with the degree of peace that I have about not only this situation but the many situations in life that have preceded it, if not for my faith.

And by the way, the battle continues. The stories featured in “Selah” and “Worth A Thousand Words” are not the first of their kind in my career and even since then, I’ve found myself in at least 2 other situations involving advocacy of some kind.

 

What were the most unexpected challenges you faced during the federal investigation and the political firestorm you describe in Selah?

I’d say the 2 most unexpected challenges were as follows:

1) Even to this day, I am astounded at the delusion of those involved. From the Mayor and the Board members on down to contractors who were involved in the situation, there is not even the slightest acknowledgement of wrongdoing. Everything is supposedly a conspiracy in their eyes. Sure, they maintained multiple bank accounts where money was transferred from the City to a political entity and then to the nonprofit I ran but that’s not why they’re being investigated, it’s obviously because the OIG and FBI are just jealous of their political success. That mentality was certainly one of the most shocking and unexpected elements that I witnessed throughout the course of this ordeal.

2) The media. Man did I learn the hard way about how the media works. Almost immediately after I began notifying City officials of what was going on, the media found out and was reaching out to me. Like any na├»ve person, my mentality was, since I did nothing wrong and was speaking documented truth, I had nothing to fear from the media. I literally spent hours on the phone with one particular “investigative reporter” walking him step by step through each thing I discovered as well as sharing SOME of the supporting documents to prove my points. In the end, he wrote an article about me that strongly implied that I was somehow the suspicious party and maybe even guilty of everything I had blew the whistle on. In my last interaction with that reporter, he admitted that he was getting pressure from someone in the Mayor’s camp and that he was a also long-time friend of one of the lawyers the opposition had hired. Despite that, he also found an out-of-State “source” who said that they believed all the accusations against me because I had done the same thing to them. He wrote all that without a single shred of documentation or evidence and meanwhile never mentioned or featured any documents that I had shared with him. It blew my mind.

 

How do you hope Selah will change readers’ perceptions of whistleblowers and the sacrifices they make?

Honestly, since releasing Selah, the public response has been awesome. I’ve even had strangers who just read the description of the book thank me and praise me for my bravery in the situation. That said, I don’t think its’ the perception of whistleblowers that I aim to change but rather the preparedness of the prospective whistleblowers themselves that I hope to impact. The truth is, there are more people than we think that are currently in situations where they are aware of or even apart of something that warrants reporting but most will not take that next step due to fear of the unknown. As with me, when I first came to the conclusion that I had to blow the whistle, I had to research what to do. I was not aware the existence of the Office of the Inspector General before but it just so happened that there were so many investigations on-going that I had overheard that agency’s name mentioned in passing once. I got lucky when I discovered that they were actually exactly who I needed to contact for my situation. Most people assume that their respective HR department is their only resource and naturally, they are hesitant to report unsavory behavior to a department that may view itself as responsible for defending the guilty party.

 

What advice would you give to someone who finds themselves witnessing similar corruption and is unsure whether to come forward?

This connects to work that I’m currently doing. Not only do I try to actively make myself a resource to those who find themselves in similar situations but I’m also fielding engagement opportunities to teach seminars and make presentations to relevant stakeholders that either want to avoid sticky situations or want to know how to effectively respond to them.

 

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently in your whistleblowing journey, as chronicled in Selah?

Obviously I biased but I feel like Selah and the situation it chronicled was handled as well as it could have been. That said, if I have one slight regret, it goes back to that recording that proved the “Board of Directors” that fired me weren’t actually Board members anymore. To be fired by a group of people who aren’t actually your boss and have that decision upheld in court because you don’t have the evidence to prove what happened was definitely the toughest lose I endured. The competitor in me wishes I could have seen that coming and had a counter for it BUT it is what it is. I’m happy to be where I am now and I’m still game for whatever future battles are to come.

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