April 17, 2010

Congress Needs an Ombuds

A letter to the editor of the Washington Post today argues that Congress should appoint an Ombuds to prevent workplace problems like the Eric Massa incident. Writer Geoff Drucker points out that complaints from Massa's staff went unheeded for a full year. "If staff members had been able to lodge anonymous complaints with an ombudsman, senior leaders would have gotten a heads-up the same day."

Drucker explains why an Ombuds program is an appropriate remedy.
Ombudsmen's offices are a proven solution to abuse in organizations in which employees feel there is no one in management they can turn to safely. Many Hill employees are easy targets. They are young and inexperienced, lack job security and know that loyalty can yield great rewards, while actions perceived as being disloyal frequently sabotage careers. They can contact the Office of Compliance for confidential advice about their legal rights, but this independent office lacks the mandate and access to convey anonymous complaints to congressional leaders. An ombudsman could fill this gap. (Washington Post.)

Drucker knows of what he speaks. Although it is not pointed out in the article, Drucker is Former Chief Counsel for Dispute Resolution & Prevention at the U.S. Postal Service and served as a member of the Federal ADR Steering Committee. (McCammon Group.)


  1. Geoff also launched an Ombuds Program of sorts within the USPS Legal Department. In 2003 Drucker was instrumental in selecting and providing training to a prescreened group of attorneys at USPS so the could serve as Ombuds to the legal department. The goal of the program was to help the other members of the legal department come forward to discuss issues impacting effective and efficient conducting of business in a safe manner.

    No performance data for the function was ever made public. While all training for the group was IOA compliant, as a collateral duty, utilizing personnel who might have a formal relation to the issue, the design was not exactly ideal.

  2. Also it is worth recalling that there has been (not sure if there is currently) and Ombuds in the Office of the Architect for the capital. Not exactly the same thing Geoff is referring to, but related.