Iowa Office of Ombudsman


Click on each question below to reveal the answer.


What does the Ombudsman do?

We serve as an independent and impartial agency to which citizens can air their grievances about government. By facilitating communications between citizens and government and making recommendations to improve administrative practices and procedures, we promote responsiveness and quality in government.


We have authority to investigate complaints about Iowa state and local government, with certain exceptions. We attempt to resolve most problems informally. Following an investigation, we may make findings and recommendations and publish a report.


What kinds of complaints can be investigated?

We can investigate complaints that allege agency action is:

  • Contrary to law or regulation.
  • Unreasonable, unfair, oppressive, or inconsistent with the general course of an agency’s functioning, even though in accordance with law.
  • Based on a mistake of law or arbitrary in ascertainments of fact.
  • Based on improper motivation or irrelevant consideration.
  • Unaccompanied by an adequate statement of reasons.


We may also be concerned with strengthening procedures and practices which lessen the risk that objectionable administrative actions will occur.


What can the ombudsman not investigate?

We cannot investigate complaints against:

  • Private companies or individuals.
  • The governor or the governor’s personal staff.
  • Members, committee, or staff of the Iowa general assembly.
  • Any court or judge, or appurtenant judicial staff.


We also cannot investigate complaints from a government employee as it relates to that employee’s employment relationship with the agency, with certain exceptions for whistleblowers.


Can you help with my complaint against a nursing home or long-term care facility?

You might be thinking of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, which is a different agency from our office. You can find information about filing a complaint with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman here.


Why was my valid complaint against government rejected?

We may have identified additional steps for you to take in resolving your complaint. 


Due to the size of our agency and limited resources, we want complainants to take every step reasonably available to them to resolve their complaint, before our office steps in. Agencies will often have a formal or informal complaint-resolution process. So, we may ask you to use an agency’s grievance process, speak to a supervisor or agency administrator, or broach your complaint with a local government authority, such as a city mayor, manager, or city council or county board of supervisors.


Taking these steps not only saves our office the time and energy in resolving a complaint, but encourages the agency to be responsive to citizen concerns.


My issue is currently in court. Can the Ombudsman help?

If your issue is current in court, we will likely decline to accept your complaint for several reasons:

  1. We do not want to overlap or duplicate resources being used to address your complaint, where a resolution can be attained through other means.
  1. We act in some ways as an alternative to the judicial process by informally resolving disputes with government. Unlike a court, we do not have enforcement authority whereby we can compel an agency to do something. For this reason, it may serve you better to have the court address your matter.
  1. We do not have jurisdiction over the courts and cannot overturn a court decision. Any findings from our office cannot alter the court action. 
  1. Our staff cannot be compelled to testify about a case involving our official duties, making a separate investigation by our office of limited utility.


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