Column: More reasons for a Rye ombudsperson

careyThis column, on Jan. 3, recommended the Rye City Council consider appointing an ombudsperson. She or he would be an impartial resident to whom other residents could turn when frustrated by official Rye action or inaction. The ombudsperson would confer privately with the relevant officials and see if the problem could be worked out amicably.

More recently, several examples of ombudspersons have come to my attention. These new examples from close to home show that we too could easily avail ourselves of this useful institution.

If you go to ltcombudsman.ny.gov/whatis/indexwhatis.cfm, you will find the following:

“The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is a federal advocacy program dedicated to protecting people living in long-term care facilities. In New York State, the Office for the Aging operates LTCOP through its Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

“The state ombudsman supervises sub-state ombudsman coordinators, who serve all communities throughout the state. Sub-state ombudsman programs are sponsored either by area agencies on aging or other qualified organizations.

“The heart of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is its corps of specially trained and certified citizen-volunteer ombudsmen. Many volunteers are retired professionals from various fields. These dedicated ombudsmen spend an average of four to six hours a week in each of their assigned facilities, advocating for the residents.”

See publicadvocategotbaum.com/services/how_we_help.html: “The Office of the [New York City] Public Advocate has an Ombudsman Services Unit, which assists constituents who have complaints, problems or inquiries involving government-related services at the city, state, and federal levels. The unit provides information and referrals and works closely with city agencies to find solutions to problems.”

Another use of ombudspersons is found in Federal Bankruptcy Law: “a) If a hearing is required under section 363 (b)(1)(B), the court shall order the United States trustee to appoint, not later than seven days before the commencement of the hearing, one disinterested person—other than the United States trustee—to serve as the consumer privacy ombudsman in the case and shall require that notice of such hearing be timely given to such ombudsman.

“(b) The consumer privacy ombudsman may appear and be heard at such hearing and shall provide to the court information to assist the court in its consideration of the facts, circumstances and conditions of the proposed sale or lease of personally identifiable information under section 363 (b)(1)(B). Such information may include presentation of:

“(1) the debtor’s privacy policy;

“(2) the potential losses or gains of privacy to consumers if such sale or such lease is approved by the court;

“(3) the potential costs or benefits to consumers if such sale or such lease is approved by the court; and

“(4) the potential alternatives that would mitigate potential privacy losses or potential costs to consumers.

“(c) A consumer privacy ombudsman shall not disclose any personally identifiable information obtained by the ombudsman under this title.”

These examples of ombudspersons in New York State and in the federal judicial system show the concept is not foreign to American usage just because it was invented in Sweden a long time ago. And the fact that persons in long-term care facilities in this state can have the protection of an ombudsperson means that we in Rye cannot ignore the possibilities offered by such an arrangement.

The way this might work here in Rye would be that the entire City Council would not, as at present, hear all complaints that are not covered in other agenda items. Instead, complaints would initially be referred to the ombudsperson and would reach the council only if the ombudsperson were unable to achieve an amicable resolution. Just think what a difference such an arrangement could have made in the Schubert matter.

Correction: This column, on Jan. 17, said the Rye City manager does not appoint the police commissioner; that is incorrect. While section C8-2 of the city charter omits the commissioner from its list of department heads appointed by the manager, section C12-1 is to the contrary. The two conflicting sections should be reconciled.

The point remains that Rye is committed to pay $40,000 for “training” on evaluating resumes and interviewing applicants according to ICMA representatives sent here to explain what they are doing. Even though the arrangement was billed as an “Executive Search,” ICMA is not providing any search, only training, so the representatives said.

No search for a new police commissioner is to be provided for our $40,000, according to the ICMA men who sat with me in the City Hall conference room. ICMA is not acting as a traditional “head hunter,” I was told, only as a trainer. ICMA will not recommend or even identify candidates for the post. It is up to candidates to identify themselves after reading ads placed by the city.

Contact: j_pcarey@verizon.net

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