Ombuds

Ombuds: Jen De Zayas Carmean
Email: ombudsman@thetroth.org

Policies and Procedures for Ombuds Office of the Troth 
(5.06 and 5.06.01 Q42018 Rede Meeting; passed on January 25, 2019)

Purpose:  To identify a reasonable method of consistently reviewing and addressing complaints brought before the Ombuds office.

I.   Definitions

High Rede: the elected Board members, including the Steer. Motion 25.06 from Q32016 defines a full High Rede as eight members, plus the Steer, for a total of nine members.

Rede+: the elected and appointed titled officers with managerial authority on the Rede. This specifically includes the following Officers, based on Q22016 motions: Reckoner (20.01), Clerk (20.02), and Secretary (20.03). Certain other Executive Officer positions (Communications Officer, Officer Liaison) must be held by High Rede members.

Full Member: includes Officers, Clergy, yearly and Lifetime paid members and honorary Members.

Affiliated organizations: Heathens Against Hate

Officers: those who are elected or appointed to hold positions of investigation or authority within the corporation

Dispute at Organizational Level: behavior impedes the community's ability to maintain a constructive environment, or hinders the organization's ability to function

Personal dispute: dispute between individuals, not impeding the community.

Civil law: the rule of the county, state or country in which the infraction occurs(ed).

II. Jurisdiction

All regulations concerning a Troth member’s (“Member”) conduct and discipline shall apply to all members and local affiliated groups. It is expected that Members will abide by basic standards of civil conduct even outside of activities and events sponsored by the organization. Counsel may be contacted as needed by Ombuds Office, per motion 5.08 passed by the High Rede during the Q32018 Rede meeting.

III. Initial Complaint

At times Members may have disagreements.  When they do, complaints may be sent directly to the Ombuds officer (email: ombudsman@thetroth.org) or referred to the Ombuds officer by the Rede or by another officer.

When the Ombuds officer receives the complaint, there are a few pieces of initial information that must be confirmed.

A. Questions for determination of jurisdiction  of complaint to Ombudsman office:

1) Includes a member?

a. Membership current as of time of event?

b. Current member?

c. If yes to any of 1, proceed. If no, contact Steer for ability to intervene  (Reference point: 5.05 Special Meeting 2, August 6, 2017).

2.  Is the Member an Officer?

  1. If yes to 2 ascertain leadership of that office and determine if co-complainant.

  2. Proceed to Complaint Process

3.  Is the Member on the Rede?  If so, how much of the Rede is involved?

  1. If yes to 3, If yes, contact counsel and CC on all contact in B.

  2. If majority of Rede (more than 50% of sitting members), contact Steer for Associate Ombudsman and Contact Counsel,

Rationale: As long as the complaint includes a  Member, then the Ombuds can move forward. If the complaint involves the Steer or if more than half (>50%) the Rede is involved, the Ombuds will also invoke two assistant Ombuds to assist with any approvals via a request to the Rede or Office of the Steer. This request will only state that a need for Associate Ombuds exists and the Rede is to designate individuals for the Ombuds to contact.  The Ombuds will also contact current legal counsel and keep counsel informed. Ombuds may contact the Clerk or look up individual membership information to ascertain membership status at the time of the event. · If enough Rede members are involved then Ombuds is to request access to Associate Ombuds recommendations from Rede and will be the final arbiters of the dispute. Counsel will be included in this discussion.

IV. Complaint Process

Once a complaint is confirmed, it officially enters the Ombuds process.  The following steps should be followed to ensure fair dealing and confidentiality.

1.   Contact the complainant to explain the Ombuds process and confirm they want to proceed (Appendix A is a template for an email)

2.   If the complainant wants to proceed, Ombuds then request them to send any additional details and any evidence  as set forth in the Bylaws

3.   After the details and evidence are sent by Complainant, Ombuds will reach out to the Respondent to inform them of the complaint and to get their understanding of the issue (Appendix B is a template for an email)

4.   The Ombuds will then decide what type of issue(s) are present and how to proceed:

a.   If it is a personal complaint, the Ombuds offers to mediate

         i.      the information of the existence of a mediation will only appear in the quarterly report and will not include names.

ii. only indication of a resolution or impasse will show in reports

b.   If the complaint relates to an organizational issue, then recommendations and findings go to the Rede for review.

C. Ombuds may need to communicate with either/both parties variously to fully explore the issue and/or evaluate resolution options

5.   Ombuds communicates the resolution to the parties in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)

6.      The parties sign and return the Memorandum of Understanding regarding the resolution.

  1. Electronic signatures will suffice

  2. Copies of signed/agreed MoU will reside in the Ombuds Google email or other confidential location accessible only to those in the Ombuds office or chain of command

7.   The Ombuds closes the case and reports the proper status in the quarterly and annual report.

8.   Rede reviews the recommendations and findings and votes on the resolution

Rationales:

Confidentiality is a critical component to the Complaint Process.  If either party does not agree to confidentiality at any point in the process, the Ombuds should inform the parties that the complaint process cannot move forward .  

1. Contact the complainant to explain the Ombuds process and confirm they want to proceed

Explaining the Ombuds process sets the tone for how a person’s complaint will be followed.  It also assures people that there is a process to support their concerns and to do something with their complaint.

2. If the complainant wants to proceed, Ombuds then request them to send any additional details and any evidence

Once the complainant confirms they understand the process and are ready to proceed, there are a number of important pieces of information to gather.  Complainants are usually pretty upset and want to be heard. It is important to communicate and ask for as much detail as possible in the email to try and reduce the back and forth activity that can sometimes happen in email communications.  Ensure you are always asking for the following details, once the complainant confirms they understand the Ombuds process as you have explained it:

Ask for clarification and evidence;

Explain process and request confidentiality;

Requested outcome

Verification of continuance of issue

Allow one week for evidence and clarification to occur.

Request time to investigate issue up to 30 days.

3. After the details and evidence are sent by Complainant, Ombuds will reach out to the Respondent to inform them of the complaint and to get their understanding of the issue

There are always two sides to every story.  Before proceeding, reach out to the Respondent and get their information as well

4. Decide what type of issue(s) are present and how to proceed

  1. Depending on what issues make up the complaint, different steps may follow.

1) if potential for Bylaw infraction (abuse of office, conflict of interest or restriction of frith) – continue to gather information from both parties until enough information exists to proceed to a recommendation and set of action steps.

2) if evidence does not appear to validate infractions and appears to be a personal issue between two parties, ask if parties would agree to mediation and confidentiality

Personal disputes do not go through the Rede except for reporting purposes.  If the parties do not want to mediate through the Ombuds process, there are not any other options available within the complaint process for the Troth.  Depending on the way the complaint process proceeds, you may want to inform the parties of that fact when you explain mediation – or you may want to see if they genuinely want to proceed with mediation . An Appendix on Mediation ground rules will follow in subsequent drafts.

B) If 1, then send letter to include (see Appendix B)

        Indicate complaint made and gist of request

        Indicate expected outcome of complainant

        Request confidentiality

        Request alternative outcome

        Request any evidence, within 30 days.

 If 2, then send Memorandum of Understanding and explain findings to both parties.

Forward a copy to the Steer, at discretion of sitting Ombuds​

C) Investigation

        Following rules of evidence in section IV, investigate facts and outcomes of interaction

D) Outcome

            Create Memorandum of Understanding to both parties

            Make suggestion of mediation to parties or Rede recommendation for intervention

5) Closure and limitations

        Once a case is closed due to escalation/recommendation, impasse or successful resolution, case cannot be reopened without additional support or evidence. Inform parties of closure and inability to reopen Ombuds case within 1 year and 1 day without additional information or new evidence of infraction, at discretion of Ombuds in office.

6) Reporting

        a) if more than 50% of the Rede members are involved/implicated, refer to rules of use of Associate Ombuds in Rede motion 5.07 Q22018. Reporting will be by special case.

        b) if no Rede members are involved, aggregate and de-identify data into quarterly/yearly report and make recommendations. Provide report to both parties and Rede and Steer and counsel

        c) if member(s) and person(s) outside are involved, consult with counsel as to pertinent laws/ rules for contact and reporting.

V. Rules of Evidence & Confidentiality

1)   Evidence must be

  1. directly related to the complaint

  2. verifiable by sources other than complainant

  3. gathered by sources not limited to: phone, internet, telecommunications, hard copy

2) Evidentiary statement must include:

  1. Name/location of source

  2. Details of encounter

  3. Date and time (as possible) of encounter

3) Anything submitted as evidence, whether from the complainant or the defendant, must be transparent to the Rede once the investigation is completed.

4) Confidentiality:

  1. Discussions between and amongst parties to the dispute should be confidential until and unless released by both parties.

  2. Release to Steer and counsel will be requested in complex or political issues,

  3. Breach of confidentiality by any party- including Ombuds- will automatically close case and refer solely to Rede, but not to supersede section III.3 of this document.

VI. Limitations

1) Complaints to the Ombuds Office must be submitted within a reasonable amount of time from the onset of the conflict in question.

2) If the Ombuds requests evidence from the complainant party, the evidence must be submitted within one week of the request. Delayed evidence may result in the Ombuds case being permanently closed. The Ombuds will not consider a case in which no evidence is provided by the complainant.

3) The Respondent may have up to one month to provide evidence per Ombuds request. After that time, the Ombuds may issue a decision summarily based on available information.

4) A case between two parties will only be considered by the Ombuds one time for the same evidentiary incident. The same issue involving the same parties will not be considered more than once.

5) Repeated, multiple complaints against a particular individual by the same party or parties may be found to be harassment via Ombuds process. If the Ombuds suspects that the office and the process are being used to harass another party, the Ombuds may consult with the Rede, and the Rede may decide by consensus to allow Ombuds to drop the case.

6) A case submitted to Ombuds must be considered as it stands at the time of the complaint. Any effort to submit a complaint about one problem and then try to exacerbate or provoke the problem once the complaint is underway so that evidence suddenly comes into existence will not be considered. It will be considered to as manipulation and harassment via Ombuds.

Appendix A – Initial Letter To Complainant – Explanation of the Ombuds Process

This message is to acknowledge receipt of your complaint and  to be sure you understand how this process works so you can decide how you want to proceed.

As the Ombuds I receive complaints and investigate if a Bylaw was compromised, in letter or spirit. Then I make recommendations to the Rede as to how to proceed. That report, including the name of the disputants, may go into Mimir's Well, as part of the Ombuds official reporting.

If it looks like a personal dispute, then I attempt to mediate, and those meditations are confidential. The outcome of that mediation is reported only as to impasse, or agreement.

I will not discuss an ongoing investigation or mediation with anyone not involved in the case and

I expect the disputants to do the same for the duration of the investigation.

I am not a member of the Rede and am, in fact, somewhat autonomous from them.

I give you this information to be sure you want to proceed knowing that both names may show in official reports and I will expect confidentiality from both parties during the investigation.

I take my oath very seriously and will proceed if you are certain.

Please advise if you are certain you want to proceed knowing this.

Sincerely,

 

Appendix B- Letter to Respondent

Hi X,

I am writing to you as the Ombudsperson because a formal complaint has been brought with you as the Respondent. The Complainant in this case is X.  X’s assertion is that you damaged X. X would like to have….

At this juncture, you have the right to respond with any collateral material you find appropriate to this situation.

I am happy to answer any questions at this time. Please know that I am collecting material to make a recommendation to the Rede at this time. I am not able to compel the Rede to make decisions, only make suggestions. If this is found to be only a personal matter and not to do with the Troth specifically, I will offer my services to attempt to mediate.

I should add that all Ombuds proceedings are confidential until the final report. I ask that you not retaliate or communicate directly with X until I can collect the data and we can discuss it between the three of us first.

 

Sincerely,