July 13, 2021

(Guest Post) IOA Executive Committee Comments on the Proposed Bylaws

The following commentary was submitted by the International Ombudsman Association's Board of Directors Executive Committee. The groups is comprised of Melanie Jagneaux, CO-OP, Board President and Ombudsman Director at Baylor College of Medicine; Steve Prevaux, CO-OP, Board Vice President and Ombuds Officer for the University of South Florida System; Ronnie Thomson, Board Secretary and Corporate Ombudsman for Sandia National Laboratories; Lee Twyman, Board Treasurer and former Ombuds for the Rochester Institute of Technology; and Willem Kweens, CO-OP, Board Assistant Treasurer and European Ombudsman for Mars, Inc. [Emphasis in original, links to members-only content omitted.]

Dear IOA Members,

We strongly encourage everyone’s participation in the upcoming Special Member Meeting on Thursday, 15 July to cast your vote on the proposed revisions to the IOA Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation. All votes matter and count toward the required quorum (and your chance to win prizes!). If we do not meet quorum (approximately 250 votes), regardless of the votes cast, the Bylaws will fail.

We write to further clarify the reasons we support changes to the eligibility criteria for electing directors in the proposed Bylaws revision to Article IV. Under the current IOA Bylaws criteria, only 28% of current IOA members meet the eligibility criteria to run for a seat on the Board of Directors. We have listened to many IOA members who have called for a more inclusive organization, including the IOA Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEIB) Task Force, urging greater diversity and inclusion among the organization’s leadership. If the proposed revisions pass, we estimate opening the opportunity for board service to 56% of current IOA members.

Like many organizations today, we believe that our decision-making and the governance of IOA will only be strengthened by new voices bringing greater diversity of individuals, roles, and perspectives. The proposed Bylaws revisions are responsive to concerns expressed that IOA leadership appears too exclusive and will ensure that all nominees who meet the eligibility criteria are advanced as candidates for voting by the full membership.

The Bylaw revisions make a number of improvements, including:
  • Adopting gender-neutral language throughout
  • Reflecting the name change: “International Ombuds Association”
  • Setting a consistent Board size of 15 Directors
  • Broadening eligibility criteria for Board service
  • Following best practices of establishing leadership succession
  • Requiring 2/3 “supermajority” for the Board of Directors to change the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice
  • Increasing transparency of the nominations process with right of appeal
  • Updating quorum requirements
  • Read more
We understand that change can be uncomfortable for some. Yet, we strive for a more inclusive future, empowering members to serve and lead an even better IOA tomorrow. We believe that far more than 28% of our members are committed to promoting and protecting the status of our profession and our highly regarded Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. As ombuds colleagues, we may prefer consensus-thinking and in some circumstances, meeting a consensus is a wonderful ideal. Effective governance may not always be achieved, however, by consensus. We own the responsibility to lead the organization with due care, including keeping the Bylaws current. That is exactly what we hope to accomplish with your help.

Voting members, please vote by proxy online or you can participate during the virtual Special Member Meeting on Thursday, 15 July.


IOA Executive Committee
Melanie Jagneaux, CO-OP®, President
Steve Prevaux, CO-OP®, Vice President
Ronnie Thomson, Secretary
Lee Twyman, Treasurer
Willem Kweens, Assistant Treasurer


  1. In other words, after hearing passionate pleas from a number of highly respected community members, the IOA Executive Committee decided against having more robust dialogue and is pressing forward with a vote. This couldn't be more disrespectful. I'm questioning whether a continued relationship with IOA via membership is worth it going forward. What is the benefit? Years of infighting and short-sided leadership who don't live by our cherished principles, and rather get defensive at the first sign of criticism. What a public display of poor leadership. I am truly embarrassed and ashamed of us.

    1. I must disagree with your perspective. The reason people serve on the board is to promote the profession and lift up their colleagues. I speak from experience on this, having served on the board during two bylaws proposals (one failed and one succeeded). The board members are never motivated by disrespect for the members. To the contrary, this bylaws proposal is based on input from a very large DEIB task force, an independent investigation, and months of internal discussions. You may disagree with the proposed changes, but the board members should be acknowledged for their efforts and given the benefit of the doubt regarding their good faith.