July 29, 2009

CoFO Continues Work on Thorny Issues Facing Government Ombuds

At its annual meeting last month, the Coalition of Federal Ombudsmen tackled several issues that bear on the profession in the public sector.

  • FOIA Requests -- Panelists reflected on President Obama's Memorandum advising agencies to release information in the absence of specific, compelling reasons not to. The discussion recognized the inherent tension between the FOIA and the Ombuds’ confidentiality commitment, and the FOIA exemption specified in the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act.
  • Keynote Address -- The Honorable John Berry, Director of the Office of Personnel Management, offered the perspective that Ombuds give people a “fair shake” without resorting to legal processes.
  • Proposed Federal Ombudsman Act -- A panel of five Ombuds from different agencies discussed whether CoFO should move forward on a Federal Ombudsman Act that would require establishment of Ombudsman Offices in Federal agencies. In responses to audience questions and comments, it was agreed that the outcome of a pending survey of CoFO members would dictate the course of future CoFO action.
  • Business Meeting -- CoFO Chair Mike Turpenoff concluded the conference by addressing the process of electing officers, further consideration of a revised CoFO Charter, the creation of a Federal job series for Ombudsman, and CoFO serving as a consultant for the creation of an Ombuds program at the Office of Personnel Management.
The next CoFO meeting is set for September 9, 2009. (CoFO Meeting Minutes.)

Prior post: COFO Sets Conference Agenda.

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