CORNER BROOK — A man in McKays claims a Department of Transportation and Works snowplow has caused damage to his property.
The man was not able to resolve the issue on his own, so he made a complaint to the Office of the Citizens’ Representative.
His complaint is just one of between 300 and 400 the office receives and investigates each year.
Barry Fleming, the citizens’ representative, is on the west coast this week meeting with people who have an issue or complaint with the province’s public service. The man in McKays is just one of the people he’ll meet with.
Fleming said the free ombudsman service offered by the office covers complaints involving all areas of the provincial public service.
“And I like saying to people it’s a really good public service. It’s professional, it’s courteous.
“But you know it’s made up of over 40,000 people and it’s not realistic to expect that there’d be perfect harmony between citizens and that large a public service.”
Fleming said the office undertakes two types of citizen initiatives.
The first are inquires or allegations that can be dealt with very quickly and speedily.
For example, in dealing with the Department of Advanced Education and Skills, a person may think they are entitled to income supplement, however, they don’t want to wait the six or nine months it may take to resolve their issue.
The second initiative involves investigations of complaints.
“That requires a much more in-depth piece of work on our part,” said Fleming.
He said the process generally involves meeting with the complainant, taking a statement and in the case of the McKays complaint, will include viewing the alleged damage and taking pictures of it.
It will also involve a review of the files on the incident from the department and speaking with officials about policies and protocols.
Fleming said at this stage of a complaint his office is a neutral third party.
“So we don’t take sides,” Fleming said.
Once the investigation is completed the office will prepare a report.
If it thinks the citizen has been treated fairly, the office will outline in detail why it thinks so.
Fleming said it may find the protocols and policies in place are fair and they were applied fairly to the complainant.
If the office thinks the complainant has been treated unfairly then the role of the office changes and it becomes an advocate for the citizen.
The report in this case would make recommendations for resolving the situation and the office will meet with ministry officials to outline those recommendations.
If the issue can’t be resolved then the office reports it to the House of Assembly through its annual digest.
Fleming said this digest is the office’s way of bringing the problems it’s uncovered and has had trouble getting resolved to the forefront, and saying maybe members of the house, at a political level, can deal with it.
Fleming is available for appointments today in Corner Brook from 7-9 p.m. at the Glynmill Inn, Wednesday at the Hotel Port aux Basques from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. and in Burgeo at the Town Office on Thursday from 1-4 p.m.
Appointments can be made by contacting his office at 729-7647 or 1-800-559-0079, however, Fleming said people without an appointment can also drop by.