This is the third in a series of articles AUMA and the Alberta Ombudsman are producing to provide information on the relationship between the Ombudsman and Municipalities. To read the full series visit AUMA’s MGA Change Management page.
The Alberta Ombudsman is contacted by citizens who feel something is not fair – perhaps the outcome of a decision does not go as expected or necessary information is not fully communicated or understood. Investigations into municipal complaints can take a variety of forms:
When the Ombudsman first receives a complaint, the investigator will work to understand the issue and look for opportunities to resolve the issue informally, as described in the article “What if the Ombudsman calls.” (This approach places emphasis on informal, collaborative and local resolution and will only advance to formal investigation if the case is complex or early resolution is not feasible or appropriate.
Formal investigations occur in cases where the issues may be systemic in nature, a legal analysis is required, or other factors are discovered that make the case unsuitable for early resolution. A formal investigation always opens with an official letter addressed to the administrative head (typically the CAO) from the Ombudsman requesting a response and any available supporting documentation. During the investigation process, the investigator assigned to the case may also request relevant documents and conduct interview(s) with the complainant and authority. At the conclusion of an investigation, both the complainant and the municipality complained about are formally notified by the Ombudsman of the investigation results.
Own Motion or Minister-ordered investigations
“Own Motion” investigations are those initiated at the Ombudsman’s own discretion when a trend or pattern of issues about the administrative fairness of a program or department has been found. Often this becomes apparent through multiple investigations of the same issue, demonstrating a systemic component that goes beyond a single complainant.
Another factor in advancing to an Own Motion investigation may be the impact or risk to members of the public if the matter were to remain unchecked. Visit the Ombudsman’s website at www.ombudsman.ab.ca for full reports on recent investigations including Own Motion investigations.
An investigation may also be launched at the direction of a committee of the Legislative Assembly or a Minister of the Crown.
Everyone has the right to be treated fairly in the provision of public services and the Ombudsman works collaboratively with authorities toward that aim. Next week, learn about some of the ways the Ombudsman’s office promotes administrative fairness through recommendations and education.
Ombudsman staff are knowledgeable, and their education services are free. To get in touch, please contact the Ombudsman’s office:
801 – 6 Avenue SW, Suite 2560
Calgary, Alberta T2P 3W2
9925 – 109 Street NW, Suite 700
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2J8