The Ombudsman serves as a sort of liaison between the public and government. We have the authority to investigate complaints against governmental action under Iowa Code section 2C.
We will first ask what steps you have taken with the agency to resolve your complaint, whether talking to the head of the agency or filing a grievance or utilizing the appeal process. We want to ensure that the agency has had the opportunity to hear and resolve the complaint before we get involved. And given our office’s small size and limited resources, we have a vested interest in making sure government agencies have a fair and robust internal process for resolving disputes.
Once you have taken these steps, we will determine our level of involvement. Not all complaints require a full investigation. Many disputes can be effectively addressed with a phone call or two to get the right information to the right people.
As part of our investigative process, we have access to state and local government facilities and records (including confidential records) to ensure a complete review of facts. If we substantiate a complaint, we try to persuade an agency to take corrective action. We do not have the authority to overrule or supplant an agency action or decision, but we often find success by working with the agency when we recommend corrective action.
In rare cases, we may find it necessary to issue a public report to resolve a systemic concern, particularly where our informal efforts to address the issue have been unsuccessful. These public reports take a significant amount of time and resources from our office, and are generally reserved for the most serious cases.
We are sometimes limited in what information we can share with you when we reach our conclusions. Iowa law requires our office maintain the confidentiality of any confidential information we receive from an agency. We understand this can be frustrating for you, as it is for us. You can have some assurance that our office – as a Legislative branch agency separate from other Executive branch agencies – acts as an independent, impartial investigator.