Ombuds offices have been established in several states to oversee disputes arising under state open government laws. The author conducted case studies of three of these programs. Using Dispute Systems Design theory, this article analyzes the major themes uncovered in the case studies of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Advisory Council, created in 2000; Iowa’s public records and open meetings position in the state office of the Citizens’ Aide/Ombudsman, established in 2001; and Arizona’s assistant ombuds for public access, created in 2007 in the Ombudsman/Citizens’ Aide office. Results showed that the offices largely comported with the major goals of ombuds programs – independence, impartiality, and providing a credible review process – but weaknesses in perceptions of impartiality hurt the development of the Iowa and Arizona programs. The program with the most perceived success, Virginia’s FOI Advisory Council, also appeared to embrace the tenets of Dispute Systems Design the most in the creation and implementation of the office, such as involving stakeholders and actively pursuing buy-in of government groups in the early days of the program. In conclusion, this article offers best practices for designing new ombuds offices or improving existing programs.
- Dispute Systems Design,
- Open Government,
- Freedom of Information,
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/daxton_stewart/5/