The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that Sen. Charles Grassley, who led legislative efforts reform the American Red Cross in 2007, has launched an inquiry into the work of the Red Cross Corporate Ombudsman Office.
Although the reporter briefly quotes Kevin Jessar, the Red Cross Ombuds, along with Jennifer Moumneh (UC Irvine) and John Zinsser (Pacifica Human Communications), to explain the role of Organizational Ombuds, the article nonetheless concludes that Ombuds are not well understood. The article then gives more than equal time to critics who say that Organizational Ombuds programs are “inherently flawed.” (Chronicle of Philanthropy.)
This article concerns me for a few reasons. Despite the fact that the Red Cross Ombuds office was established and practices consistent with IOA standards, the article paints Ombuds as simply a risk prevention mechanism, while ignoring the formal mechanisms for Red Cross whistleblowers. (The article could easily, but does not, cite any of the studies showing that whistleblowers are often unhappy with the formal complaint process.) I also suspect that the quotes from Jessar, Moumneh, and Zinsser were taken out of context or abbreviated to fit the reporter’s narrative. Finally, the fact that Sen. Grassley--a potent political figure--misunderstands the fundamental role of an Organizational Ombuds is perhaps the most concerning thing.
Related posts: CDC to Make Ombuds Permanent; CDC Ombuds Become Focus of Sen. Grassley's Ire; Atlanta Journal-Constitution Proposes Solution for CDC Ombuds and Sen. Grassley; CDC Ombuds Issue Memo to Employees; CDC's Workforce Director Offers Perspective, Cites IOA Standards; Congress Shuts Down CDC Ombuds Office; Sen. Grassley Endorses Red Cross Ombuds; Bush Signs Legislation Creating Red Cross Ombuds; Red Cross Head Responds to Criticism Over Appointment of Ombuds; First Red Cross Ombuds Promises to Strengthen "Sacred Trust" With Public; Red Cross Ombuds Unveils Video; Red Cross Ombuds Publishes Inaugural Report and Announces Cut-Backs; New Ombuds at American Red Cross; American Red Cross Appoints Deputy Ombuds; Harvard Law Students Assist Red Cross Ombuds Office With Strategic Research; Red Cross Issues Second Annual Report.