May 31, 2007

SEC Affirms Role of NASD Ombuds

On May 30, 2007, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reviewed an action by the National Association of Securities and Exchange Dealers (NASD) against a member firm. In the case, Sky Capital alleged that it had been harassed by the NASD and denied access to NASD's internal complaint process. Among other things, the firm said that its complaints to the NASD Ombuds "fell on deaf ears." In dismissing Sky Capital's application for review, the SEC said that the NASD Ombuds does not provide a "fundamentally important service" that is central to the function of the NASD and therefore alleged failure of the Ombuds to act does not invoke SEC jurisdiction. The SEC also noted that, under TOA standards, the NASD Ombuds had "the discretion in determining whether to act on a concern brought to its attention. " (Sky Capital LLC, Exchange Act Rel. 55828 (May 30, 2007); via SEC Tea Party.)

Note: In 2007 and after this decision, NASD and the member regulation, enforcement and arbitration functions of the New York Stock Exchange were then consolidated into the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). (SEC Release No. 34-56145.) 

Mid Atlantic Ombuds Meeting August 3

Princeton University will host the Mid-Atlantic Region Ombuds Meeting on Friday, August 3, from 9:30 to 3:30. The one-day meeting will be a great opportunity for ombuds in the region to learn from each other and network. Attendees are welcome to suggest topics for the agenda. Registration is $65 and covers breakfast, lunch and refreshments. For more info and to RSVP contact Nick Deihl at the Princeton Ombuds Office by July 20.

May 30, 2007

Concern Over Appointment of Red Cross Ombuds

A blog written by Terence Stamp, president of Charity Navigator, reveals that Beverly Ortega Babers has been appointed the first ombudsman for the Red Cross. (The news has not been reported by the mainstream press and is not mentioned at the Red Cross website.) Stamp was probably one of the few outside of the ombuds profession to be interested in who would become the Red Cross ombuds. However, he is concerned because Babers is a political ally of Mark Everson, the new Red Cross President and CEO.
So what’s my problem with Ms. Babers? It’s in where she worked last week. Before being appointed by new Red Cross CEO Everson to serve as the lone independent voice and the donor’s eyes and ears at America’s most-important non-profit, in effect the person charged with making sure the group is playing by the rules and honoring the public trust, Ms. Babers was Mark Everson’s Chief of Staff at the IRS. She comes to the new job as his right-hand woman. And despite her credentials, she owes her new job and her large pay raise to Mark Everson. Am I really supposed to believe that she will be fiercely loyal to donors, staffers, employees, and aid recipients first, and not to Everson and his position of power and influence?

(Trent Stamp's Take.)

(Related post Bush Signs Legislation Creating Red Cross Ombuds.)

May 29, 2007

US Immigration Officials Rejects Ombuds' Reform Proposal

The Department of Homeland Security has rejected a recommendation from Prakash Khatri, Ombudsman for Citizenship and Immigration Services. Supporters said the proposal could cut green card waiting times and save applicants 15 million hours spent waiting in government lines. According to Khatri, the agency rejected the plan because renewal fees accrued during immigration backlogs generate 20 percent of the agency's budget. (Boston Globe.)

Of course, a recommendation like this is outside the IOA Standards of Practice for organizational ombuds.

(Related post Lawsuits Seeking Immigration Reform Cite Ombuds Report.)

ABA Section on Dispute Resolution in San Francisco

At the American Bar Association's annual conference in San Francisco, the Section on Dispute Resolution offers a number of sessions on August 10-11. Most interesting is a presentation on the U.S. Air Force's Negotiation Center of Excellence, which teaches interest-based, cross-cultural negotiation skills. Early bird registration closes May 31. (ABA Annual Conf. Info.; Section on Dispute Resolution.)

Note: The Negotiation Center of Excellence has a great website with lots of resources on facilitation and mediation. I'm adding a link from this page and my personal bookmarks.

IOA Summer Training in Seattle

The International Ombudsman Association presents several training opportunities July 16 through 20 in Seattle. New ombuds should take Ombudsman 101 and 101 Plus, which cover critical skills and practice issues. Specialized courses include "Legal Issue in an Everyday Ombudsman Practice: Answers to the Questions You Have Always Wanted to Ask"; and "Defining Effectiveness for the Ombudsman Office." Priority registration closes June 1. (IOA Info.)

Yes, these courses are expensive, but they are outstanding and no other organization offers anything comparable.

Is Your Visitor About to be Fired?

Wise Bread has a list of 20 warning signs that a pink slip is coming. For example:
  • Did you recently screw up big-time?
  • Did your last performance review read like a train wreck?
  • Has your office, cubicle or working space recently been down-sized?
  • Are you noticing paper-trails between yourself and your superiors?
  • Has your immediate boss or mentor gone bye-bye?
These may be useful tools when evaluating visitors' workplace concerns. (

May 28, 2007

UPDATE: Effort to Pass Shield Law Comes Up Short in Texas

The Texas bill to create an ombuds privilege ended without a full Senate vote this weekend. The bill, HB 3578, was under consideration by the Senate Jurisprudence Committee when the Texas legislature adjourned its biennial session in partisan rancor. Although the ombuds bill garnered no attention in the mainstream press, it received a unanimous vote in the House and a favorable reaction in committee hearings. (HB 3578 History; Houston Chronicle.)

Overall, there should be considerable satisfaction for the success that was achieved.

(Related posts Texas Introduces Ombuds Shield Law; UT Student Govt. Backs Texas Legislation.)

UPDATE: Bill to Create FOIA Ombuds Put on Secret Senate Hold

An unknown Senator has placed a "secret" hold on the Open Government Act, a bill that would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act by, among other things, creating an ombuds for FOIA disputes. Unless the hold is removed, the Senate will not act on the bill before adjourning for the Memorial Day recess. "It is both unfortunate and ironic that this bipartisan bill, which promotes sunshine and openness in our government, is being hindered by a secret and anonymous hold. This is a good government bill that Democrats and Republicans alike, can and should work together to enact," Sen. Leahy said in a May 24 floor statement. (Leahy's Statement.)

(Related post House Panel Approves Bill That Would Create Federal FOIA Ombuds; Are Ombuds the Solution to FOIA Disputes?)

Eaton Names Ombuds Director

Eaton Corporation has named its compensation director, Ilene Butensky, to head the company's Office of the Ombuds. Butensky has worked for Eaton for 28 years in a variety of positions in human resources. Butensky holds a bachelor's degree from SUNY Albany, a master's degree in labor and industrial relations from the University of Illinois, and a juris doctor degree from the Cleveland Marshall College of Law in Ohio. (Crain's Cleveland Business; Eaton Press Release.)

(Related post Job Posting: Eaton Corp.)

May 25, 2007

Gender Differences in Negotiating

An article at by two experienced mediators delves into how men and women use language differently and how that impacts dispute resolution. According to Nina Meierding and Jan Frankel Schau, women tend to use "rapport talk" as a tool to build relationships, establish connections and to share experiences, while men tend to employ "report talk," the purpose of which is to share information. The authors have a variety of suggestions for negotiators to listen for and be attentive to the different styles of communication and language used by men and women. (

College Student Proposes Campus Ombuds, Becomes President for a Day

Daniel Gilligan, a junior at Widener University, switched roles with the university's president on April 24 after an annual competition. Gilligan was selected from a group of four finalists who gave presentations on what they would do as president. Gilligan proposed hiring an ombudsman for the university who could address student issues and make recommendations for institutional improvements. (West Milford Messenger.)

Federal Ombuds Annual Conference on June 11

The Coalition of Federal Ombudsmen will hold its annual conference on June 11 at the U.S. Department of Education. The theme is "Selling the Ombudsman Concept." In addition to a business meeting, sessions will include "Receiving Notice of Illegal Activities," "Working with Law Enforcement/OIG," "Coordination vs. Confidentiality between EEO, Ombudsman and Unionized Operations" and Interaction with Oversight Organizations." (CFO Conf. Info.)

Forum of Canadian Ombuds Conference Next Week

The FCO Biennial Conference takes place Sunday, May 27 through Tuesday, May 29, 2007, in Montreal. The theme of the 3rd Biennial Conference of the Forum, "Unique Solutions to Universal Problems," is an invitation to examine what is universal in the problems dealt with by ombudsmen and what is particular. The program includes new ombuds training and multiple sessions on apologies and dealing with difficult behaviors. It's not too late to register. (FCO Conf Info.)

May 23, 2007

Montreal Creates Schools Ombuds

Officials at the Commission scolaire de Montreal have announced plans to hire an ombudsman, which is believed to be the first for any school board in Quebec. The position will respond to concerns from parents, students and the general public. Approval of the $100,000-a-year position and the announcement of the selected candidate is expected at tonight's commissioners meeting. (Montreal Gazette.)

(Related post DC Mayor to Announce Progress on Schools Ombuds.)

May 18, 2007

Harvard Study: Employees Fear Speaking Up, Even to Ombuds

The Harvard Business Review has the results of a study into why employees withhold ideas from their bosses. The research involved 200 individuals from all levels of a company that had many formal mechanisms for encouraging people to speak up about serious problems, even an ombudsperson. Yet half the employee respondents said they felt it was not safe to challenge traditional ways of doing things. What they were most reticent to talk about were not problems but rather creative ideas for improving products, processes, or performance. The study indicates that ombuds cannot be fully effective unless management fosters a culture that invites and acknowledges workers' ideas. (HBR Online.)

UCLA Seeks Extern

The Ombuds Office at UCLA is looking to recruit an unpaid extern to receive outstanding supervision by a highly experienced ombuds. After training, the extern will have the opportunity to handle cases independently. (Straus Institute Jobs.)

May 17, 2007

Resource for Teaching Conflict Resolution Skills

A useful resource for ombuds who provide training is available from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP). A 166-page training manual on Conflict Negotiation Skills for Youth that is available at no cost as a pdf or for purchase as a hard copy. The conflict negotiation training manual is directed at government and nongovernmental organization personnel working with young people. It presents a variety of participatory training methods and exercises. Users are encouraged to refine and adapt the materials. (UNESCAP, found via Bill Warters' Campus-ADR Weblog.)

May 16, 2007

Flynt on Finding Common Ground with Falwell

Upon hearing of Jerry Falwell's passing, Larry Flynt released the most remarkable statement demonstrating how disputants can find common ground for a civil discussion:
The Reverend Jerry Falwell and I were arch enemies for fifteen years. We became involved in a lawsuit concerning First Amendment rights and Hustler magazine. Without question, this was my most important battle – the l988 Hustler Magazine, Inc., v. Jerry Falwell case, where after millions of dollars and much deliberation, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in my favor.

My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person, years after the trial, Jerry Falwell and I became good friends. He would visit me in California and we would debate together on college campuses. I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling.

The most important result of our relationship was the landmark decision from the Supreme Court that made parody protected speech, and the fact that much of what we see on television and hear on the radio today is a direct result of my having won that now famous case which Falwell played such an important role in.

(Access Hollywood; see also Wikipedia on Hustler Magazine v. Falwell.)

Honestly, I can't imagine two individuals with less in common and less incentive to continue dialog. Something to keep in mind when confronted by seeming adversaries.

May 15, 2007

Job Posting: North Shore Medical Center

NSMC's Union Hospital outside Boston is seeking a full-time ombudsman to "Serve as a liaison between patients and/or families and medical or hospital staff to facilitate conflict resolution across all campuses." No salary or closing date indicated. HealthCareSource or NSMC Jobs.)

Ombuds Share Better Than Mediators

Dina Lynch, who publishes the Mediation Mensch blog and ADR Practice Builder, writes about breaking in to the field of mediation. She observes that, while mediators often encourage parties to collaborate, they often view each as competitors and don't share referrals, information and resources. (MediationMensch.) My own experience as a new mediator a few years ago was entirely consistent. On the other hand, I have never met a more welcoming and supportive group than organizational ombuds. From my first UCOA meeting in 2004 to the latest on-line conversation, ombuds have always willing to mentor and assist. I look forward to a strategic plan from IOA that embraces and builds upon this latent and great asset.

Can Ombuds Prevent Heart Attacks?

A new study found that people who thought they were treated unfairly were more likely to suffer a heart attack or chest pain. Those who thought they had experienced the worst injustice, such as racial and gender discrimination, were 55% more likely to experience a coronary event, according to the report published today in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. People who think they are victims of discrimination often respond by drinking, smoking or overeating. (LA Times.)

Put down that drink and call the ombuds.

May 11, 2007

UPDATE: Bush Signs Legislation Creating Red Cross Ombuds

On Friday, President Bush signed a bill into law Friday that reforms governance and leadership at the American Red Cross. The bill also creates a new position of ombudsman, who will have unfettered access to all Red Cross operations and will provide annual reports to Congress. The reforms were proposed last year by independent experts and are intended to ease recurring clashes between board members and Red Cross management, and to address complaints that the organization was at times too bureaucratic and unaccountable. (Washington Post.)

William & Mary to Employ Staff Ombuds

In response to growing discontent among workers, the College of William and Mary has promised to hire an ombuds for staff by the end of the summer. (Daily Press.) At present, the College has an ombuds office only for graduate students.

May 10, 2007

House Bill Would Make EEOICPA Ombuds More Classical

Northern New Mexico's congressman, Tom Udall, has introduced a bill to change the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman for the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. The EEOICPA ombuds office was originally created as a 3-year project to provide confidential and independent advice to sick atomic workers and the Department of Energy. In addition to extending the term of the office and number workers covered, Rep. Udall's bill would allow the office to become an advocate for claimants and suggest changes to Congress. (Santa Fe New Mexican.)

May 09, 2007

Ombuds Training in Tunisia

June 11 through 14, the International Ombudsman Association will offering four training courses for organizational in Tunis, Tunisia:
  • Ombudsman 101, June 11 & 12, 2007 -- An introduction for new ombuds or those interested in organizational ombuds.
  • Ombudsman Support Role, June 13, 2007 -- A program for administrative assistants and officers.
  • Ombudsing in the Field, June 13, 2007 -- Practical training and theory to ensure effectiveness during a field visit.
  • Helping People Come Forward, June 14, 2007 -- An examination of the reasons stakeholders are reluctant to come forward.
The trainings will be hosted by the African Development Bank. Register by May 18 for best rates. (IOA Tunisia info.)

Western Kentucky Students Protest for Staff Ombuds

Students at Western Kentucky University protested in support of the school's building service attendants. Protest coordinators are seeking union representation or an ombudsperson for the BSA's. WKU Staff Council is investigating the possibility of getting a staff ombudsperson, but there are no plans of establishing a union. (WKU Herald.)

(Related posts Mills College Students Seek Ombuds; Pomona Students Press Demand for Staff Ombuds.)

Former UC Ombuds Heads to Iran

Andrea Briggs, who recently concluded a short tenure as interim ombuds at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is flying to Iran as part of a civilian diplomacy delegation organized by the international peace group, Fellowship of Reconciliation. Briggs will bring her considerable experience in intractable conflict to open informal, personal dialog where official communications have broken down. Briggs was the university ombuds at UC Riverside for 25 years and president of UCOA in 2003.

If you are interested in contributing to FOR or defraying the cost of Andrea's $4,000 trip, leave a comment and I will forward information.

ICANN Seeks Input on Ombuds

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is seeking community feedback on how it is meeting its Strategic Plan. Among the issues to be surveyed is the work of the ICANN Ombudsman. (ICANN Blog.)

(Related posts ICANN Ombudsman Releases Report; ICANN Ombuds Responds to Criticism.)

Few of us attain the transparency that Frank Fowlie regularly demonstrates. Kudos to him.

New England ACR Spring Conference and Training

The New England Chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution will hold its 2007 Annual Conference and Advanced Training at Boston University May 31 through June 1, 2007. The event is promoted to all ADR practitioners, including ombuds. Register by May 18 to avoid late fees. (Conference Info.)

NE-ACR runs a unique ombuds program for anyone dissatisfied with the services of an ADR practitioner in New England. (NE-ACR Ombuds Program.)

Thanks to John Zinsser for the tip.

Job Posting: NIH

The Center for Cooperative Resolution at the National Institutes of Health is accepting applications for an associate Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman in located in Bethesda, MD, and the position pays $79,397 to $121,967 per year, plus relocation expenses. Applications are due by May 29. (USA Jobs.)

This is a rare opportunity to work with some of the most distinguished organizational ombuds in the field.

May 08, 2007

Responding to "Mobbing" Tactics

The Chronicle of Higher Education features an insightful article on mobbing ("an impassioned, collective campaign by co-workers to exclude, punish, and humiliate a targeted worker." ) According to sociologist, Kenneth Westhues, mobbing occurs most in institutions where workers have high job security, where there are few objective measures of performance, and where there is frequent tension between loyalty to the institution and loyalty to some higher purpose. Westhues recommends that institutions dismantle quasi-judicial bodies, like ethics committees, that let people play judge. He also says that mobbing can often be stopped simply by a firm request. (Chronicle.) More information about bullying and mobbing in higher education at BulliedAcademics.

(Related posts When the Boss is a Bully or Jerk; Advice for Visitors with Job Stress.)

Thanks to Jim Augustine for the tip.

New Ombuds Journal Calls for Articles

The International Ombudsman Association has announced that its nascent peer-reviewed publication is now accepting submissions. The Journal of the International Ombudsman Association (JIOA), will publish online and include scholarly articles and information relevant to the organizational ombuds. Submitted articles will be considered for the inaugural and subsequent issues. More information, including instructions for authors and a description of the review process, is available from the JIOA homepage.

May 04, 2007

An Ombuds By Any Other Name

The LA Times has an inspirational story about an unusual hospital employee with important and familiar responsibilities. White Memorial Hospital is located in an East LA neighborhood riven by gang conflict. Unlike other urban hospitals which have installed metal detectors or hired armed guards, White Memorial hired Mike Garcia, a 61 year old former gang member to act as a community mediator. Working in and out of the emergency room, Garcia has broken up fights, counseled gang members, separated them, and also comforted those who have been touched by the gang violence. According to Dr. Brian Johnston, chief of emergency services, "Mike definitely has made us more secure." (LA Times.)

Empathetic, discrete, fearless,
credible, neutral, informal, effective... Can we claim him as an honorary ombuds?

New Ombuds Appointed at UCSB

The University of California, Santa Barbara has named Priscilla Mori as its new Campus Ombuds. Mori earned her bachelors from UCSB, and worked in a variety of administrative and academic offices. Most recently, she was the Acting Assistant Ombuds for Program Development in the Office of the Ombuds.

May 03, 2007

Are Ombuds the Solution to FOIA Disputes?

The current trend in Disclosure Legislation is towards appointing ombuds to mediate disputes between requester and the government agency. Pending federal amendments to the Freedom of Information Act in the House of Representatives would set up an Ombudsman’s Office within the National Archives, while the Senate FOIA amendments would put the Ombudsman’s Office in the Administrative Conference of the United States. Attorney Scott Hodes provides a succinct and thoughtful summary of how ombuds could effect the bureaucracy. ( via Handakte WebLAWg.)

(Related post House Panel Approves Bill That Would Create Federal FOIA Ombuds.)

NIU Ombuds Written Into Religious Observance Policy

Northern Illinois University has passed an amended religious observance policy that references the campus ombuds office. According to the policy, if a student believes they have not received reasonable accommodation, they may raise the issue with their department, their dean and then the provost. The policy also states a student may consult the ombudsman for advice on any level. (Northern Star.)

May 02, 2007

CGU to Host Meeting of Southern California Ombuds

The Ombuds Office at Claremont Graduate University will host the next meeting of Southern California ombuds in late June 2007. Practicing ombuds from all sectors are invited to attend. Dates and times are being considered. Email Tom Kosakowski (ombuds[at-sign]cgu[dot]edu) or visit SoCalOmbuds for more information.

Study Shows Ceiling Height Affects Thinking

A research study from the University of Minnesota suggests that the way people think and act is affected by ceiling height. According to the authors, "When a person is in a space with a 10-foot ceiling, they will tend to think more freely, more abstractly. They might process more abstract connections between objects in a room, whereas a person in a room with an 8-foot ceiling will be more likely to focus on specifics." (UNM News via Lifehacker.)

Ombuds may then want to consider rooms with high ceilings when facilitating discussions for creative resolutions.

May 01, 2007

Opinion: UMKC Prof Opposes Intellectual Diversity Ombuds

The Kansas City Star features an editorial by Stephen John Dilks, an associate professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Dilks urges State legislators to carefully evaluate the consequences of the pending Intellectual Diversity bill (HB 213). In particular, Dilks points out that:
One “intellectual diversity ombudsman” at each public college and university in Missouri would cost at least $2 million per year in salaries and benefits. Add the salaries and costs of support staff and the figure approaches $5 million per year.

(Kansas City Star; related post Update: Missouri House Committee Passes "Intellectual Diversity" Bill.)

It sure would be nice to see where these figures are coming from. According to Wikipedia, there are 14 public, four-year colleges and universities. This would indicate that the ombuds would earn nearly $143,000 per annum in salary and benefits.

Minneapolis Restaurant Settles EEOC Lawsuit, Agrees to Hire Ombuds

A trendy Twin-City nightspot, Chino Latino, has agreed to pay $325,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged it mistreated its Hispanic employees. According to a court filing, the restaurant also must hire a Spanish-speaking ombudsman to hear any future concerns, set up a complaint hot line and train managers on discrimination laws. A spokesman said the company already has someone in mind for the ombudsman position. (Star Tribune.)