|Volume 1 - Resource Management
Chapter 16 - Enforcement
Policy 16.31 - Public Complaints Policy: Compliance and Enforcement Program Staff
Effective Date: 24-June-04
This policy covers allegations of misconduct on the part of those Ministry of Forests' employees who perform functions and have duties within the Compliance and Enforcement [C&E] regime where those allegations or complaints are made by members of the public, clients, or licensee staff.
This policy does not cover allegations of misconduct made by members of the public service. See Policy 16.30 - Internal Complaints Policy.
This policy does not apply to allegations of misconduct made against Ministry staff in the performance of duties outside the C&E program. Allegations of misconduct with respect to staff performing duties within other program areas are the responsibility of those program areas.
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act supersedes any directives that may arise from the implementation of this policy.
The reputation of the C&E program, and the establishment and maintenance of public confidence in it depends, in part, on the confidence felt by the public and program member(s) that a complaint against a person performing a C&E function and/or manager responsible for a C&E function will always be fully and impartially investigated and, if substantiated, appropriate action will follow. It is equally important that all employees be protected against false or malicious accusations which may be levelled at them. Therefore, it is imperative that all complaints made against a person performing a C&E program function or a manager responsible for a C&E program function be investigated promptly and impartially reported, recorded and resolved in accordance to approved policy and procedures.
To enable and describe the means for the gathering of facts pursuant to any allegations of misconduct on the part of those Ministry staff performing a C&E function.
This policy does not describe nor override government practise and procedures respecting any government employee disciplinary process.
To ensure allegations of misconduct are investigated and responded to in a manner that is timely, fair, and transparent.
To protect and preserve the integrity and reputation of the C&E program and to protect and preserve the integrity and reputation of those staff performing a C&E function.
"ADM" means the Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations & BC Timber Sales.
"BD" means the Director of the Compliance & Enforcement Branch.
"DCL" means the District Compliance and Enforcement Leader for one of the Forest Districts.
"Executive Director" means the Executive Director, Operations and BC Timber Sales.
"Misconduct" means any improper action, or failure to act, that brings the administration of justice into disrepute or damages the integrity of the Ministry and or the C&E program.
"RCL" means the Regional Compliance Leader who is a Regional Staff Manager.
"RM" means Regional Manager.
"Subject" means the C&E member or members who are the subject of the public complaint.
It is Ministry policy that:
Allegations of misconduct on the part of staff performing a C&E function will be thoroughly and fairly investigated.
In all cases, the rights of the complainant and the rights of the subject will be respected.
Subjects will be informed of the specific nature of those allegations and will have a fair and reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations. Subjects may have representation during the course of any investigation and will receive a summary of the results of any investigation.
Where program area staff within the Ministry of Forests who while in the performance of function that is not a C&E function are alleged to have brought the C&E program and/or the administration of justice into disrepute, the C&E program will refer these matters to the manager responsible for that program area. The program area responsible will investigate and provide the C&E program with the results of its investigation and any actions it has taken arising from its investigation. Where it has been determined that the facts support the contention that the C&E program and/or the administration of justice has been brought into disrepute, the RCL will consult with the equivalent program area manager and determine a mutually agreeable remedial course of action designed to prevent similar actions from occurring in the future.
Any member of the public having a complaint concerning the conduct by staff in the performance of any C&E function may, whether or not that member of the public is affected by the subject-matter of the complaint, make a complaint to the RCL.
All written complaints will be referred to the RCL. By mutual agreement with the BD, the RCL may refer complaints to the BD.
Where the RCL is supervisor of the subject, the RCL will refer the complaint to the BD.
Where an RCL receives a complaint about Headquarters staff, the RCL will refer the complaint to the BD. By mutual agreement, the BD may refer a complaint to a RCL.
DCLs have the discretion to deal with verbal complaints and will do so pursuant to this policy. By mutual agreement, the DCL may refer verbal complaints to the RCL.
Where a complaint is made and is an anonymous complaint, the complaint will be referred to the RCL. The RCL will review the information provided and consult with the DCL when appropriate. The RCL has the discretion to act upon the complaint, or to choose not to act on the complaint, based upon the information provided. The RCL will document any decision not to investigate an anonymous complaint.
Anonymous complaints do not carry an immediate right of investigation. Care must be given to balance protecting the C&E program's integrity with protecting individual program members from frivolous, vexatious and or unsubstantiated complaints.
Acknowledgement of Complaint
Every complaint that is not an anonymous complaint shall be acknowledged in writing within 30 days if the complaint is in writing or if the complainant requests that the complaint be so acknowledged.
[All references to RCL hereinafter also apply to the BD where the complaint file has been referred to the BD.]
Within 30 days of being notified of a complaint, the RCL shall in writing notify the subject, the BD and the relevant DM, DCL and RM, if appropriate, of the substance of the complaint unless, in the RCL's opinion, to do so might adversely affect or hinder any investigation that is being or may be carried out with respect to the complaint.
The RCL, and/or the DCL for verbal complaints, shall consider whether a complaint can be disposed of informally and, with the consent of the complainant and the subject, may attempt to so dispose of the complaint.
Record of Informal Disposition
Any informal disposition of a complaint must be recorded. Any record of any informal disposition by a DCL will be provided to the RCL.
The RCL, and the DCL for verbal complaints, has the discretion to attempt to informally resolve any complaints, written or verbal, prior to initiating an investigation.
Except in cases where doing so may compromise an investigation, the RCL will consult with the DCL on the conduct of any investigation.
Where a complaint is not disposed of informally, the complaint shall be investigated by the RCL or his or her designate subject to the RCL's right to refuse to investigate in accordance with this policy.
Where a subject is interviewed during the course of any investigation, the subject will be informed of their right to have a collective bargaining unit representative attend any interview, and the subject will also be informed that any information gained during the course of any such interview may be used during the course of any disciplinary proceedings that may arise from any investigation.
Where an investigation reveals misconduct an investigation report will be provided to the responsible Manager for action at his or her discretion in accordance with government human resources policies and procedures, and the relevant collective agreement(s) where applicable.
Where an investigation reveals that there may be reasonable grounds for an investigation relevant to the jurisdiction of another enforcement agency, the investigator will inform the RCL that he is consulting with the appropriate enforcement agency in order to determine the appropriate course of action. The investigator will then inform the RCL of the joint decision between the appropriate agency and the Ministry as to the future conduct of any investigation.
Investigators may not make recommendations with respect to the nature of any disciplinary actions, or whether or not disciplinary action is appropriate. Investigators may make recommendations on program area policies and procedures, where appropriate.
Investigators may include in any report the available options for management's consideration.
Right to Refuse or Terminate Investigation
The RCL may direct that no investigation of a complaint be commenced, or may direct that an investigation of such a complaint be terminated if, in the RCL's opinion
(a) the complaint is not within the jurisdiction of the C&E program and/or concerns actions or functions not within the C&E regime. In these cases, the RCL will direct the complainant to the appropriate responsible program area, or
(b) the complaint is frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith, or
(c) having regard to all the circumstances, investigation or further investigation is not necessary or reasonably practicable, or
(d) the subject of the complaint and/or the circumstances that have generated the complaint are the subject of a C&E program administrative or criminal investigation. Should this be the circumstance, the complainant will be informed that they may make a complaint once any investigation and administrative or other legal proceedings have reached their natural conclusion, or
(e) the complaint does not contain reasonable grounds or adequate evidence to initiate an investigation.
Notification (where investigation is declined)
Where the RCL declines to investigate the RCL shall give notice in writing to the complainant and to the subject of the complaint, within 30 days of receiving that complaint. Notice will include a summary of the complaint, the reasons for declining to investigate, and the right of the complainant to request reconsideration of the complaint by the RCL.
Where the complainant requests reconsideration by the RCL, the complainant must do so in writing within 30 days and provide reasons. Where a RCL confirms his or her decision respecting the complaint, the RCL will refer the complaint to the BD for reconsideration if the complainant or the subject of the complaint is not satisfied with the RCL determination.
The RCL will provide reasons for a determination respecting a request for reconsideration.
Referrals to BD (where the RCL declines to investigate)
A complainant, or the subject of a complaint, who is not satisfied with the disposition of the complaint by the RCL may refer the complaint in writing to the BD for reconsideration. Where a complainant, or the subject of a complaint, requests BD reconsideration of a complaint, the complainant must do so in writing, must provide reasons, and must do so within 30 days of receipt of the RCL's final determination of the complaint.
Where a complainant refers a complaint to the BD, the RCL will furnish the BD with all materials and documents relevant to the complaint.
The BD may commence an investigation or recommend to the RCL that an investigation be initiated, or may confirm the RCL's decision.
The BD shall send to the complainant, the RCL and the subject within 30 days of receiving a request for a reconsideration a report in writing setting out
(a) a summary of the complaint, and
(b) the results of the BD's reconsideration of the RCL's decision to decline to investigate, and
(c) a summary of any action that has been or will be taken with respect to resolution of the complaint.
The BD, and the RCL, may issue a written report setting out the findings and recommendations with respect to any complaint.
Investigations Initiated by the BD
Where the BD is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to investigate a complaint, or to initiate an investigation notwithstanding any complaint, the BD may initiate a complaint investigation.
The BD shall notify the Executive Director of any investigation initiated by the BD.
The BD shall notify the applicable RCL of any investigation initiated by the BD.
Where a member of Executive of the Ministry of Forests receives a complaint, that complaint will be referred to the BD. The BD will consider the complaint, will consult with the responsible RCL and will either initiate an investigation or refer the complaint to the RCL for investigation.
The BD and the RCLs may initiate procedures for notifying persons, and for investigating, disposing of or otherwise dealing with complaints.
The RCL and/or the BD shall notify in writing the complainant and the subject of the status of any investigation, not later than 60 days after being notified of the complaint and every 30 days thereafter during the course of the investigation unless, in the RCL's or the BD's opinion, doing so might adversely affect or hinder any investigation that is being or may be carried out in respect of the complaint.
On completion of the investigation of a complaint, the RCL shall send to the complainant, the BD and the subject, a report setting out
(a) a summary of the complaint,
(b) a summary of any evidence,
(c) a summary of any action that has been or may be taken with respect to resolution of the complaint,
(d) the right of the complainant or the subject to request a reconsideration by the RCL, as well as the requirement for reasons for a reconsideration,
(e) the right of the complainant to refer the complaint to the BD for reconsideration if the complainant is not satisfied with the disposition of the complaint by the RCL.
Request for Reconsideration of a Final Report
Where a complainant, or the subject of a complaint, disagrees with the content or findings of any Final Report, the subject or the complainant, may, within 30 days of receiving the Final Report, request the RCL to reconsider the report. Any request for reconsideration must include reasons.
The RCL will respond to any request for reconsideration within 30 days. Any response to the request for reconsideration will be provided to the complainant, the BD and the subject.
Any response will include the right of the complainant, or the subject, as the case may be, to request further reconsideration from the BD. The person requesting reconsideration must do so within 30 days and must provide reasons.
The BD will respond within 30 days to any request for reconsideration. Any response to the request for reconsideration will be provided to both the complainant and the subject of the complaint.
The BD may commence an investigation, confirm the RCL's determination or may recommend reopening an investigation.
Review of Complaint
On receipt of a report by the RCL or BD, the Executive Director will review the complaint in light of the findings and recommendations set out in the report.
Decision of Executive Director
After reviewing a complaint report by the BD or the RCL, the Executive Director shall notify the RCL and the BD in writing of any further action that has been or will be taken with respect to the complaint, and where the Executive Director decides not to act on any findings or recommendations set out in the report, the Executive Director shall include in the notice the reasons for not so acting.
The RCL and the BD will establish and maintain a record of all complaints received by the Compliance and Enforcement Program.
All responsibility centres will provide C&E Branch with all original files pertaining to all complaints once any investigation has reached its natural conclusion, and C&E Branch will be the custodian of those files.