The City of Delta this week announced the creation of a new “citizen advocate” to mediate complaints and disputes from the public.
According to the city’s website, the citizen advocate will act as a mediator for public complaints and disputes relating to city matters or decisions made at the staff level, including development applications, building permits, tree cutting applications, highway use permits and other matters.
Similar to an internal ombudsperson, Delta’s citizen advocate will undertake an impartial investigation and internal review of staff decisions when investigating a formal complaint “to ensure that the city is treating people fairly,” according to a city press release.
“As part of my election platform, I committed to improving customer service, particularly related to the building permit and development application process. (…) The new citizen advocate is another step on our path of continual improvement,” Mayor George Harvie said in a press release.
“I hope the community will find this position valuable in helping work through any challenges that arise during an application process or in other dealings with the city where an impartial review of a situation is needed.”
Taking on the role is Arvind Sharma, previously the city’s manager of administrative and customer services. In his new role, Sharma will report directly to city manager Sean McGill.
The citizen advocate is independent from the city’s application and permit process and is empowered to liaise with members of the public that have a complaint, then formally review and investigate any legitimate concerns to determine a fair resolution and, where appropriate, make recommendations.
“The creation of our citizen advocate position sets a new standard in promoting responsible and impartial conduct across the city,” McGill said in a press release. “This role is intended to be an independent, effective agent of positive change at the city as part of our ongoing efforts to achieve greater transparency and accountability at City Hall. We want to ensure stakeholders’ concerns are being addressed in an appropriate, quick, and fair manner.”
The citizen advocate does not have the authority to override bylaws or cancel tickets or bylaw notices issued by the city, nor will he be investigating complaints relating to a decision by Delta council. The citizen advocate also will not be setting policy, and instead will make recommendations to ensure administrative fairness, transparency and accountability.
Anyone who feels as though they have been treated unfairly or who wants to dispute a decision is asked to contact Delta’s citizen advocate by emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 604-946-3258. The service is free and confidential. Complaints must be made within 30 days of the occurrence of the disputed issue.