By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – In January 2020, the Diocese of Jackson established a hotline system for individuals to report potential fraud, compliance issues, ethics violations and human resource issues.
The use of a hotline has been discussed for several years at the National Diocesan Fiscal Managers’ Conference, that members of the diocese attend. A hotline is considered a ‘best practice,’ as having an independent hotline can help alert companies to and reduce the possibility of inappropriate or illegal actions.
Carolyn Callahan began researching hotline platforms after presentations at the conference, even before she entered her current role as director of temporal affairs at the diocese in May of 2019. Previously she acted as controller, internal auditor, and coordinator of special projects for the diocese, director of finance for St. Joseph School in Madison, and as an accounting support person for all Catholic Schools.
“Although we have always had procedures in place to handle complaints, events of the past few years helped us see past any potential misuse of the hotline, so our parishioners and employees have a confidential and effective way to report issues,” says Callahan.
The diocese hotline system is operated by Lighthouse Services. For the past 15 years, Lighthouse Services has maintained ethics, safety, and fraud hotlines and now services over 4,100 organizations between the U.S. and abroad.
Any concerns relative to financial misconduct, fraud, compliance issues or human resources issues within the diocese may be reported anonymously by calling the hotline’s toll-free number or filed online. Lighthouse Services will field and process the information reported.
Immediately upon receipt of a complaint, Lighthouse Services will email three designated recipients.
“Two recipients are chancery employees and one is a diocesan priest who does not work for the chancery office,” says Callahan.
“If one of the three recipients are named in the complaint, that person does not receive the email notification and cannot access the report.”
After receipt, the three designated recipients access the complaint through the secure Lighthouse Services web portal. If the reporter files anonymously, the designees only see a PIN number, but never a name. Communication occurs between the reporter and designees via the Lighthouse online portal. Files and other documentation can be uploaded for review.
“Discussion ensues and a plan is created for investigating the claim either internally or using an outside investigator,” says Callahan.
“Depending on the results of the initial investigation the diocesan attorney and/or law enforcement are notified.”
Callahan’s hope is that anybody concerned about fraud, compliance issues, ethics violations and human resources issues will feel comfortable knowing they have an objective and confidential platform to file a claim that will be investigated immediately.
“Questions asked within the filing process are meant to only identify the complaint and allow the reporter to give as much or as little detail as desired. Use of the hotline gives us the ability to know about and respond to complaints in a timely and effective manner,” says Callahan.
To make a report individuals can visit www.lighthouse-services.com/jacksondiocese or call toll-free 888-830-0004 (English) or 800-216-1288 (Spanish).
Vicar general, Father Lincoln Dall, who works closely with Callahan, says “The Lighthouse hotline is part of our overall strategy of strengthening our control procedures and oversight of the assets and gifts that God and his people have entrusted to our diocese, our parishes and schools. We have been improving upon such policies, procedures and controls within the past two years and continue to do so through the current agreement we have with the federal government.”
The hotline information is published regularly in Mississippi Catholic and at least quarterly in parish bulletins. It can also be found at www.jacksondiocese.org.