Telling the whole story

One regulatory college dismissed the complaints of a parent who claimed a professional had made errors in a report he feared would affect his child’s future.

The college’s original dismissal letter did not advise the parent of his right to request a review of the decision to dismiss the complaint. Later, the college did send a follow-up letter advising the parent of the right of review and time limit. But through an investigation, the Ombudsman determined the college’s original letter did not meet the requirements of administrative fairness. The situation was rectified by the college in its follow-up letter, and the parent was able to request a review (though the college’s complaints review committee did not grant one). The college also developed a template for dismissal letters that now includes reference to reviews and time-limits.

The Ombudsman also found the college’s dismissal letter did not fully explain what the registrar considered in its decision, and why it determined there was no unprofessional conduct. While the college was able to reasonably explain what it was tasked to consider and what it found, the dismissal letter did not do the same. The Ombudsman determined the college should have more fully provided the reasoning for its conclusion by better linking its findings, authority and role, reasons and conclusion.

Finally, the parent claimed he was not provided the full opportunity to be heard by the college, though he had asked for a review of the decision. The college opted to accept written, not verbal, submissions. While the decision may have been reasonable, the reasons behind the decision were not documented. Moreover, the college did not ask the complainant for any additional information – although it did ask the member being complained about for a written submission.

The Alberta Ombudsman found this, too, is not consistent with providing for full participation. The Ombudsman recommended the college re-review the member’s case. More specifically, the college was asked to start over and decide what type of submissions to accept, to document decisions with rationale, and to advise the participants of this. The college rejected this recommendation, but after meeting with the Ombudsman, it agreed to send a detailed letter of explanation to the complainant.

How is this fair for Albertans?

We were able to point out several areas where the process should have been fairer, and information should have been clearer. For example, the parent was denied full participation rights by not being asked to provide additional information, even though the college asked the subject of the complaint for information.

Investigations like these help Albertans better understand why an organization makes a decision – and presses organizations to be more transparent and clear when they make their decisions.