My Ideas for the Grievance Process


The First Step:

If we are going to give councils the option of handling a grievance prior to letting it move to the regional commission, keep in mind this gives councils the power to ignore all grievances (letting the grievances automatically move to the next level). NCs can also pick and choose which grievances they wish to deal with, while ignoring others. The complainant will not have the same right. This person is at the mercy of the council. If the council wants to handle a grievance internally, and the complainant feels this will lead to a biased result, the complainant will have no power to start at the next level.

I prefer the idea that NCs will hear the grievance first only if both parties agree to this process up front.

My second choice is to put a time limit in place (such as 45 – 60 days) for the council to hear the grievance. If the council fails to deal with it or if either party is dissatisfied with the results for any reason, they have the right to be heard by the regional commission.

The grievance process was discussed in depth at my last town hall meeting. By the end of the meeting, it was generally agreed that issues should go directly to the regional commission because most complaints are about entire NCs or a majority of the board. Grievances tend to revolve around abuse of power, Brown Act violations, bylaws violations, or conflicts of interest. Complainants will not be satisfied with results arrived at by a council that they distrust or feel is corrupt. If these complainants have to jump through complicated hoops to make appeals or to be heard by the regional commission, nothing is likely to be resolved in the end. Complainants will feel frustrated and angry, and will be likely to obstruct meetings.

Greg Nelson said we should not have expectations about NCs that exceed the expectations for the City Council and City Commissions. The City Council does not handle its own grievances or legal issues. Can you envision City Councilmembers running around knocking on doors in order to find unbiased people to serve on Ad Hoc Grievance Committees? Then setting up the committee meetings, listen to the findings, then taking a vote? So why should NC members spend their valuable time in this way? It distracts from doing the business of the community. And I disagree with Mr. Nelson that it will teach people how to get along; the opposite has been my experience.     

The Regional Commission

The regional commission may decide to mediate some cases and arbitrate others. They should have a fair amount of leeway to do what they feel is best to resolve a problem.

They should be given a title, such as “commissioner.” Otherwise, the city will have a difficulty finding volunteers for this potentially time-consuming job. We want people to feel honored when they are chosen for the Regional Commission. We don’t want people to think it is a burden that could go unappreciated. It is also a position that could be hazardous in that “losers” may criticize the regional decision-makers. 

The commissioners should be selected in the following way. Each NC should choose two candidates for the regional commission. (This allows NCs to choose one person from each faction if they wish - some councils have two feuding factions). Then the mayor and/or city council should choose commission members from the pool of candidates. There should be no more than seven members of each regional commission. When commissions are too large, it becomes difficult to make decisions in a timely manner.

There must be some entity who can enforce decisions made by the regional commission.

Thanks. I hope these suggestions have helped.

Charlotte Laws