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Charter Agreement for the
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research Ombuds Office
The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Ombuds Office is being established in 2009 to provide a confidential, neutral, independent and informal process that serves as an information and communication resource, and facilitates resolution of concerns that arise within the organization. This Charter, as adopted by the UCAR Board of Trustees, sets forth the privileges and responsibilities of the Ombudspersons (Ombuds).
II. Purpose and Scope
The Ombuds Office will be a neutral, confidential, informal and independent resource for UCAR employees and visitors to seek guidance regarding problems, issues, conflicts or concerns that arise within UCAR. The Ombuds will confidentially receive complaints, concerns or questions. The Ombuds will explain policies, answer questions, and offer options. The Ombuds will listen, make informal inquiries or otherwise review matters received, offer resolution options, make referrals, and facilitate discussions independently and impartially. Services of the Ombuds supplement, but do not replace, other more formal UCAR processes. The Ombuds will report to the UCAR Board of Trustees on trends or issues without identifying any parties to those issues. The Ombuds may also make recommendations to the Board of Trustees for policy changes, needed training, or other procedures that may enhance UCAR. The Ombuds does not report to UCAR management.
III. Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice
The Ombuds will follow the International Ombudsman Association (“IOA”) Code of Ethics:
The Ombudsman is independent in structure, function, and appearance to the highest degree possible within the organization.
NEUTRALITY AND IMPARTIALITY
The Ombudsman, as a designated neutral, remains unaligned and impartial. The Ombudsman does not engage in any situation which could create a conflict of interest.
The Ombudsman holds all communications with those seeking assistance in strict confidence, and does not disclose confidential communications unless given permission to do so. The only exception to this privilege of confidentiality is where there appears to be imminent risk of serious harm.
The Ombudsman, as an informal resource, does not participate in any formal adjudicative or administrative procedure related to concerns brought to his/her attention.
The Ombuds will follow the International Ombudsman Association (“IOA”) Standards of Practice (see attached), with a few exceptions and clarifications. The Ombuds is encouraged to identify concerns and trends (as indicated above) to the UCAR Board of Trustees. However, the Ombuds has no legal or other authority to initiate independent action on behalf of or against the organization or any individual. Consistent with federal and state laws and UCAR policy, the Ombuds will not have access to any employee-specific confidential information, including personnel files and health or related information, unless explicit consent is given by the UCAR employee whose confidential information is to be disclosed.
IV. Appointment, Duties, Authority and Limitations of Ombuds
The Ombuds are nominated by the UCAR President and appointed by the Board of Trustees. The Ombuds report to the Board of Trustees. Ombuds are appointed for a 12 month term that may be renewed by the Board of Trustees. Ombuds may resign at anytime with or without notice by informing the Chair of the Board of Trustees.
The Ombuds will publicize the confidential, independent, neutral and informal nature of the Ombuds’ services through appropriate methods (e.g., website, brochures, posters, etc.) The Ombuds will provide a copy of the Ombuds standards to each client.
The Ombuds will avoid involvement in matters where there may be a conflict of interest. (A conflict of interest occurs when the Ombuds’ private or work interests, real or perceived, supersede or compete with his/her dedication to the neutral and independent role of the Ombuds.) When a conflict of interest exists, the
Ombuds will take all steps necessary to disclose and/or avoid the conflict.
Ombuds will have an allocated budget, and sufficient resources to meet operating needs.
The Ombuds may withdraw from or decline to look into a matter if he/she believes involvement would be inappropriate for any reason.
The Ombuds has the authority to discuss a range of options available to his/her clients, including both informal and formal processes. The Ombuds may make any recommendations he/she deems appropriate with regard to resolving problems or improving policies, rules or procedures. However, the Ombuds will have no actual authority to impose remedies or sanctions or to enforce or change any policy, rule or procedure.
The Ombuds will not conduct formal investigations of any kind. The Ombuds will not participate in the substance of any formal dispute processes, outside agency complaints or lawsuits, either on behalf of a client of the Ombuds or on behalf of UCAR unless compelled to do so by court order or applicable law.
The Ombuds will not act as an advocate for any party in a dispute, nor will he or she represent UCAR management or clients.
The Ombuds will not have authority to adjudicate, impose remedies or sanctions, or to enforce or change UCAR policies or rules.
V. Confidentiality and Record Keeping
The Ombuds will maintain the confidentiality of communications to the extent feasible. The Ombuds will be provided with legal counsel separate and independent from UCAR in the event he/she is asked for documents or testimony related to any litigation or other formal process arising out of Ombuds’ activities.
The Ombuds may request access to information related to clients’ concerns, from files and offices of UCAR, and will respect the confidentiality of that information. As noted above, Ombuds may not have access to certain confidential information without the explicit consent of the UCAR employee. Requests by the Ombuds for information should be handled with reasonable promptness by the appropriate UCAR personnel.
Communication to the Ombuds will not constitute notice to UCAR. This includes allegations that may be perceived to be violations of laws, regulations or policies, such as sexual harassment, or issues covered by the whistleblower policy. In addition, if the client discloses such allegations and expresses a desire to make a formal report, the Ombuds will refer the client to the appropriate UCAR office(s) for administrative or formal grievance processes.
If a UCAR employee or visitor would like to put UCAR on notice regarding a specific situation, or wishes for information to be provided to UCAR, the Ombuds will provide the client with information so that the client may do so himself/herself. In situations that involve public safety, harm to self or others, an Ombuds may have an ethical obligation to put UCAR on notice. If the Ombuds decides to put UCAR on notice, he or she will do so in writing to the extent practicable.
The Ombuds will not keep records for UCAR, and will not create or maintain documents or records for UCAR about individual matters. Notes and any other materials related to a matter will be maintained in a secure location and manner, and will be destroyed once the Ombuds concludes his/her involvement in the matter.
Use of the Ombuds will be voluntary and not a required step in any grievance process or policy. UCAR employees and visitors have the right to consult the Ombuds without reprisal.