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Resolving Inspector General complaints

Posted 9/26/2012   Updated 9/26/2012 Email story   Print story

    


Commentary by Cheif Master Sgt. Kevin Endsley
81st Training Wing Inspector General office superintendent of complaints resolution


9/26/2012 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- In the inspector general complaints resolution office, we deal with a wide range of issues from diverse groups of people. Our article titled, "It's the inspector general's job--or is it?" in the Jan. 5 edition of the Keesler News, showed the difference between an IG issue (generally reprisal, restriction, or an improperly directed mental health evaluation) and a non-IG issue (command problems, corrections of records, behavior, etc.). The piece also explained why open communication is important in dealing with complaints. Now, we will examine the possible outcomes when you file an IG complaint.

The type of resolution you receive will depend on the nature of your complaint. There are five resolution paths:

Transfer

We transfer a complaint when our analysis shows that the matter is appropriate for Air Force IG action, but an IG outside of the 81st Training Wing should handle the complaint. Another reason for transferring a complaint to another IG would be if the complaint presents a conflict of interest for the IG. An example of a complaint for transfer would be if a Reservist files a complaint with us, we would transfer it to the Air Force Reserve Command IG office. The rule is that non-AETC personnel should work their issues through their servicing IG, but anyone can submit a complaint into the system through any IG office in the Department of Defense.

Assist

When there is no allegation of wrongdoing and we can help you resolve an issue with advice or by connecting you with the right helping agency, an assist is in order. For example, if a person comes to our office because they cannot resolve an issue with their pay, we might open a dialogue with the appropriate person in finance and connect the complainant with them for a quick resolution.

Refer

A referral is the most common method to deal with non-IG complaints. We refer a complaint under two conditions. First, there must be an allegation of wrongdoing; such as a violation of instruction, policy or procedure. Additionally, our analysis must reveal that an organization or agency outside IG channels can more appropriately resolve the issue. When these conditions are true, we refer the complaint to the office or commander with functional responsibility. We'll use a command issue as an example.

If a complaint contains the allegation of favoritism, we would refer that complaint to the appropriate commander and inform the complainant of our action. The commander looks into the issue and responds in writing to the IG office and to the complainant, explaining their position on the issue and action they plan to take. Maintaining open lines of communication can prevent misunderstandings and will reduce the potential for complaints. Mere dissatisfaction with an outcome is not a legitimate basis for an IG complaint. There should be evidence that someone violated a standard.

Dismiss

The IG office can dismiss a complaint that is more than 60 days old. As well, we dismiss a complaint if there is no assertion or evidence of a standard violation or if the issue is a non-IG matter and the complainant has not used available administrative appeal channels. If the complainant refuses to provide enough information to analyze the issue, has filed under Article 138 of the UCMJ, or the complaint is found to be frivolous or without merit, the IG can dismiss the complaint. We consider requests to withdraw complaints on a case-by-case basis, but if the issue is too important to ignore, we may deny the withdrawal request and continue to process the complaint.

Investigate

An investigation is the least-common outcome. We investigate a complaint when a properly framed allegation emerges from the context of the complaint and the IG office determines the issues are within its purview. A properly framed allegation contains four elements: when the wrongdoing happened, who did it, what they did and the standard violated. When an investigation happens, an appointed investigating officer examines the circumstances behind the complaint and submits to the IG a written report with findings. Next, offices within the IG hierarchy review the report, which ultimately ends up at the Department of Defense IG office for final approval. We close the case when the subject's complainant and commander are aware of the results and the commander takes action.

When you witness some type of wrongdoing or want to report a problem, there is the immediate conflict of how to deal with the issue. One way is to notify leaders in the chain of command so they can address the problem and prevent future occurrences. Here at Keesler we have exceptional leaders who truly care about their people, so it is a great idea to go to them for help in dealing with issues or to report knowledge of wrongdoing. However, you may not be comfortable with routing issues through the chain of command. Another reason could be that the problem is with someone in the chain of command itself. Whatever your reason, you have the right to file an IG complaint at any time, regardless of who else you choose to notify.

For complainants and leaders alike, the best first step is to maintain open and honest channels of communication. A free exchange of dialogue can go a long way toward solving problems before they grow bigger. If you elect to file a complaint with our office, rest assured that we operate as a neutral and objective fact finder, dedicated to ensuring that you receive a fair and timely resolution to your problem. When we resolve issues efficiently, the Airmen of the 81st Training Wing can keep their focus where it belongs--on the mission the world's best Airmen...training, fighting, winning.

Contact the 81st TRW Inspector General:

Drop by the Airman Leadership School (building 2816), Room 105; call 228-377-3010 or DSN 597-3010; fax 228-377-3357 or DSN 597-3357; email 81TRW.IG2@us.af.mil; write 81 TRW/IG, 720 Chappie James Avenue Suite 204, Keesler AFB, MS 39534.



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