Ombuds: Misconduct


Reporting Incidents of Potential Misconduct

The President appoints one or more Section members to the Office of Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson(s) are charged with reviewing and adjudicating allegations of misconduct occurring within the context of Section events or Section-sponsored activities, in an effort to seek the truth as a neutral designee. Incidents occurring ‘off-site’ (e.g., bars, hotels, etc.) between members or meeting participants are considered to be part of the broader Section gathering and as such are subject to the Section Code of Conduct and Section disciplinary action; a valid complaint can be made even if the incident does not happen at the conference center or meeting venue. Incidents involving non-Section  participants generally fall outside the purview of the Section Code of Conduct and Section disciplinary action, but may result in restrictions to participation in Section activities or events pending investigation.

Concerns and complaints of misconduct can be presented to an Ombudsperson, to any Section officer, or reported online here. Before action can be taken by the Office of the Ombudsperson, allegations must be presented in writing to an Ombudsperson or reported online by the victim or an observer of alleged misconduct occurring within the context of Section events or Section sponsored activities. Individuals may submit anonymous reports to the Ombudsperson(s) online. Note that while we will keep track of anonymous reports, we cannot take action on a single anonymous report without further corroboration. All reports will be taken seriously and will be investigated. Retaliation for reporting of harassment is unacceptable, as is reporting an incident in bad faith; both may be treated as harassment and subject to investigation by the Ombudsperson(s).

Review of Incidents

After receiving a misconduct report, the Ombudsperson(s) will review all materials and obtain additional information, if warranted. Depending on the misconduct, the Ombudsperson(s) may advise reporting to local law enforcement. For other cases, the Ombudsperson(s) may discuss the incident with the accuser(s) (assuming they are not anonymous) and the alleged offender(s). Further investigatory steps may include – but are not limited to – interviewing persons named as witnesses as well as reviewing documents and other evidence supporting the complaint and/or justifying the alleged offensive behavior. Throughout this process, confidentiality will be honored to the extent possible and as necessary so as to respect the accuser(s) and to avoid impeding the ongoing operation of the Section , unless disclosure is legally required.

After review of all materials, if the Office of Ombudsperson determine that misconduct occurred and should be subject to disciplinary action, the Ombudsperson(s) shall communicate the charge(s) of misconduct to the alleged offender(s) and inform the alleged offender(s) as to the availability for review of summaries of incidents and evidence supporting the charge(s). The alleged offender(s) will have an opportunity to respond to the allegations. These steps will be completed prior to the Ombudspersons deciding on an appropriate course of disciplinary action.

Decisions and Disciplinary Action

After review of the complaint and of evidence and interviews of witnesses, and after hearing the positions of the accuser(s) and the alleged offender(s), the Ombudspersons will determine whether misconduct occurred. Ombudspersons may confer with select Section officers if deemed necessary (while honoring confidentiality to the extent possible). If the Ombudspersons determine that no misconduct occurred, that disciplinary action is not required, or if they cannot agree that misconduct occurred (even with input from Section officers), the accuser(s) and alleged offender(s) will be informed of this decision and no further action will be taken. Decisions will be made as quickly as possible; timelines will vary with each case.

If the Ombudsperson(s) determine that misconduct has occurred, they will recommend disciplinary measures using the criteria described below. Disciplinary measures will be commensurate with the offense(s). As noted below, egregious and illegal actions may justify an immediate lifetime ban from all future meetings and revocation of membership, past awards and honors, and future recognition (to include automatic disqualification for any future awards, honorary membership, etc.). In less egregious activities, disciplinary actions may include notification of improper behavior, recommendations to take relevant training or counseling, or suspension from Section-sponsored events for some period of time. For other actions, the Office of the Ombudspersons will employ a three-step process to recommend appropriate disciplinary measures:

  1. At the first instance of misconduct, the offender(s) will be notified of unacceptable behavior, reminded of the Code of Ethics and expectations regarding Professional Conduct, and encouraged to consider relevant training or counseling.
  2. If misconduct is repeated at a subsequent Section event or Section-sponsored activity, the Ombudspersons will recommend a suspension of participation from all Society events for a specified period of time, after which the offender may resume participation. During this suspension, individuals may not receive any Section awards or honors or serve in leadership positions. After the period of suspension, the banned individual may request permission from the Society President and Office of the Ombudspersons to return to Section meetings and be eligible to receive awards. This request must include a letter addressed to the Section President asking to return to meetings, participate in Society governance, and be eligible for awards; this letter should include a statement affirming that no additional ethical, personal, or professional misconduct has occurred during the time period of the ban. Additional requirements may be imposed as determined by the Society President in consultation with the Office of the Ombudsperson.
  3. If misconduct is repeated a third time, subsequent disciplinary action may include a lifetime ban from all future meetings and revocation of membership, awards, and honors, and disqualification for any future awards and honors.

The Office of the Ombudsperson reserves the right to bypass the first and/or second step listed above and move directly to a subsequent step if warranted by the offense and/or past history of the accused.

The Section President will review the recommendation of the Ombudsperson(s), including all supporting documentation. If there is disagreement regarding the recommendations, the Society President and the Ombudsperson(s) will work together to revise the recommendations. Once a recommendation has been determined, the Section President will notify the accuser(s) and the offender(s) of the disciplinary measures. If the disciplinary measures include revocation of awards, honors, or membership, the decision must be ratified by a three-fourths vote of the Section’s Executive Committee (based on the number of submitted votes).

The disciplinary measures may be appealed to an ad hoc committee comprised of the five most recent Section Presidents within 60 days following notification of the decision by the Society President. Thereafter, this ad hoc committee shall review the evidence and the evaluation of the Ombudsperson(s), and may confer with current Officers of the Society to determine whether to affirm, alter, or reverse the disciplinary measures. The ad hoc committee’s decision shall be final and not subject to appeal.

Misconduct Occurring Outside of Section and Section Meetings

All Section members are expected to adhere to high standards of ethical conduct in their professional and personal lives. Professional or personal misconduct occurring outside of the activities of Section may be considered when evaluating nominees for awards, honorary membership, nominees for board positions and other forms of recognition by the society. These instances of misconduct may also be subjected to disciplinary action. The Section reserves the right to temporarily limit access to Section-sponsored events in light of verifiable evidence of misconduct that raises concerns about the safety of events or attendees. Temporary suspensions may be applied while a case is being investigated.

Procedures Involving Officers, Directors, and Ombudspersons

Officers, Directors, or Ombudspersons shall recuse themselves from cases in which they have potential conflicts of interest. In the event that the Society President is accused of misconduct or has a conflict of interest, the Presidential duties described above will be allocated to the President-elect. If the President-elect has a conflict of interest, duties shall shift to the Vice President. If the Vice President has a conflict of interest, duties will shift to the remaining Officers. Measures for removal from elected office are described in the Bylaws should disciplinary action be required for any officer of the Society.