State Ombudsman Ruth Cooperrider, released her annual report on the activity in her office in 2014. Cooperrider says there was a slight increase in requests from Iowans. “We opened 4,135 contact cases, an increase from 4,010 from 2013,” Cooperrider says.
The majority of the requests involved state and local government agencies. “Corrections alone accounts for 17.5 percent of the total cases opened,” Cooperrider says. “The next highest I believe is county government, which is at 15.89 percent, and city government at 14.24 percent.”
Cooperrider says some of the cases are addressed pretty quickly. “When we get the contact the case — wther its in a writing or a call — will be referred to one of the assistant ombudsmen, they will talked with the complainant or review the complainant’s letter and determine whether it’s a jurisdictional matter that we have authority to look into. If it is not, then it is declined and oftentimes we provide information to the person on where to go for help or assistance or information,” she explains.
Cooperrider says they often have to ask the person to try another solution before her office will investigate. “If the person has not availed themselves of a remedy that is readily available and reasonable for them to use, we sometimes will decline a complaint and refer them to that process. We don’t necessarily jump in feet first on every complaint,” according to Cooperrider.
She says most complaints come to a simple end. “The bulk of our complaints are not substantiated,” Cooperrider says. “Sometimes it’s just a matter of us looking into and maybe providing a better explanation, providing an independent explanation to the individual.” Just 33 of the over 4,000 requests resulted in being treated as special projects to be investigated by her office in 2014.
The Ombudsman’s 2014 Annual Report is available online at: www.legis.iowa.gov/Ombudsman