About Waterloo Area Municipal Ombuds Office
The Region of Waterloo, together with the Townships of Woolwich and Wilmot and the Cities of Waterloo and Cambridge, have, together, contracted with Agree Incorporated to provide Ombuds services to their respective municipalities.
Waterloo Area Municipal Ombuds Office reviews complaints brought by inquirers of participating regions, cities or towns after they have exhausted the region, city or town’s internal complaint system and are not satisfied with the outcome. If a complaint falls within Waterloo Area Municipal Ombuds Office’s mandate and a full investigation is warranted, an investigation is undertaken by one of Waterloo Area Municipal Ombuds Office’s experienced investigators. Upon the conclusion of an investigation, an investigator may make non-binding recommendations to the region, city or town and inquirer.
Waterloo Area Municipal Ombuds Office is a private company that operates independently from the participating regions, cities or towns. The role of Waterloo Area Municipal Ombuds Office is to provide an accessible and independent dispute resolution service to the Inquirer / Complainant and the Member region, city or town. Waterloo Area Municipal Ombuds Office’s service is free of charge to those making the complaint.
Scope of Services
Matters that ARE within the Ombuds’ Mandate to Investigate are:
- Where the Region/City or Township has not followed appropriate procedures in arriving at a decision;
- Where the Region/City or Township has acted in a way that is contrary to its own rules, procedures or By-laws;
- Where the Region/City or Township has made a decision that is outside of its powers to make;
- Where the Region/City or Township has failed to take a specific action that it is required to under its rules, procedures or By-laws;
- Any decision or recommendation made, act done or omitted to be done in the course of the administration of the Region/City or Township, so long as it does not fall under the list of matters that are not within our mandate to investigate (see below).
Matters that are NOT within the Ombuds’ Mandate are:
- Any Region/City or Township decision, recommendation, act or omission in respect of which there is a right of appeal, review or objection to any court or tribunal, until that right of appeal, review or objection has been exercised, or the time for the exercise of that right has expired;
- Cases where the inquirer has not taken their complaint to the Region/City or Township first;
- Decisions, recommendations, acts or omissions of a legal advisor or counsel to the Region/City or Township;
- Complaints regarding closed meetings of Council;
- Complaints that are within the mandate of the Integrity Commissioner;
- Complaints where the subject matter is deemed to be trivial, frivolous, vexatious or an abuse of the Ombuds Office process or which are not made in good faith, in the opinion of the Ombuds Office;
- Cases where more than one (1) year has passed since the inquirer learned of the facts on which the complaint or inquiry is based, unless special circumstances exist.
Inquirers must provide (within one year as above) a completed and signed Complaint Form with consent to disclose such evidence and information as is necessary to conduct a full, fair and impartial inquiry or investigation. Complaints and Inquiries must originate with the affected party; the Ombuds does not accept complaints from interested, but unaffected third parties.
An Initial Review is conducted to decide whether a file may be investigated. During the Review, the following questions are considered:
- Did the inquirer already go through the Region/City or Township’s internal complaint process? If not, the inquirer will be referred to the appropriate Region/City or Township office;
- Is the complaint or concern within the Ombuds Office’s mandate?
Inquirers and the respondent, where appropriate, are advised of the outcome of the Initial Review.
An Initial Review may result in the inquirer and the Region/City or Township being advised that the issue may be investigated. It may also result in an Initial Review Letter advising the Inquirer (and respondent if appropriate) that the file is being closed because the inquiry is not within the Ombuds Office mandate, together with a referral to the appropriate body to lodge a complaint, wherever possible.
For inquiries that proceed, the Investigator will review all of the documentation that was provided by both the inquirer and the Region/City or Township. If the Investigator believes that the issue(s) may be able to be resolved consensually, the matter may be referred for early resolution through a Conflict Management Professional.
If a resolution is not possible, the matter will be referred back to the Investigator who will continue investigating the complaint and who may contact the inquirer and the Region/City or Township to schedule interviews and gather information.
The Report will contain the Investigator’s findings, either recommending a remedy for the concern to the Region/City or Township or rejecting the complaint. In either case, the Report will contain reasons for the decision. Ombuds Offices cannot order a municipality or an inquirer to take any steps, but may make recommendations with persuasive reasons. Such recommendations are often followed.