(a) There shall be a complaint review committee, hereinafter referred to as the "Committee," consisting of three (3) individuals designated by the Superior Court Judges of Cowlitz County. The Committee is empowered by the court to review all complaints made regarding the guardian ad litem services provided by CASA staff/volunteers.
- One member of the Committee shall be a Superior Court
(b) All complaints must be in writing and must be submitted to the Committee. Complaints shall remain confidential until resolved.
(c) Upon receipt of a written complaint concerning a CASA staff/volunteer, the Superior Court Judge shall advise the CASA Program Director of the complaint. If the judge finds the complaint sufficiently serious, the matter will be referred directly to the Committee. Otherwise, the complaint will be forwarded to the CASA Program Director who will meet with all parties involved in the dispute in an attempt to resolve the problem at the program director’s level.
- A copy of the complaint and the resolution or lack of resolution shall be forwarded to the Juvenile Court Administrator.
- If the complaint is not resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant, the matter will move to (d) of this policy.
(d) Upon receipt of the written complaint (unresolved) and findings from the CASA Program Director, or upon a direct referral from a judge, the Juvenile Court Administrator shall convene the Committee within ten (10) business days to review the complaint. Upon review of the complaint, the Committee shall either:
- Make a finding that the complaint has no merit on its face, and decline to review the complaint and so inform the complainant; or
- Make a finding that the complaint does appear to have merit and request a written response from the CASA staff/volunteer within ten (10) business days, detailing the specific issues in the complaint to which the Committee desires a response. The Committee shall provide the CASA staff/volunteer with a copy of the original complaint. The failure of a CASA staff/volunteer, subject to the complaint, to respond within the required ten (10) business days, in the absence of good cause shown, will result in the immediate suspension from the case assignment of the CASA staff/volunteer.
In considering whether the complaint has merit, the Committee shall consider, but not be limited to, whether the complaint alleges the CASA staff/volunteer has:
- Violated the Code of Conduct;
- misrepresented their qualifications to serve;
- not met the annual training update requirements set forth in the statute;
- breached the confidentiality of the parties;
- falsified information in a report to the Court or in testimony before the Court;
- failed to report suspected abuse or neglect of a child;
- communicated with a judicial officer ex parte;
- represented the Court in a public forum without prior approval of the Court;
- violated state or local laws, rules, or this policy in the person's capacity as a CASA staff/volunteer; or,
- taken, or failed to take, any other action which would reasonably place the suitability of the person to serve as a CASA staff/volunteer in question.
(e) Upon receipt of a written response to a complaint from the CASA staff/volunteer, the Committee shall, within ten (10) business days, make a finding as to each of the issues delineated in the Committee's letter to the CASA staff/volunteer that either there is no merit to the issue based upon the response of the CASA staff/volunteer or that there is merit to the issue. The Committee may, at its discretion, extend the time for entering findings to conduct additional investigation if necessary; however, in no case shall that extension be for more than twenty (20) business days and the CASA staff/volunteer shall be notified of such extension.
(f) The Committee shall have the authority to issue a written admonishment, written reprimand, refer the CASA staff/volunteer to additional training, recommend to the presiding Juvenile Judge that the Court, upon its own motion, remove the CASA staff/volunteer from the current case or suspend or remove the CASA staff/volunteer from serving as a guardian ad litem in Cowlitz County. In considering a response, the Committee shall take into consideration any prior complaints which resulted in an admonishment, reprimand, referral to training, removal of the CASA staff/volunteer from a particular case, or suspension or removal from a registry. If a CASA staff/volunteer is listed on more than one registry, the suspension or removal may apply to each county registry the CASA staff/volunteer is listed on at the discretion of the Committee.
(g) The complainant, the CASA staff/volunteer, and the CASA Program Director, shall be notified in writing of the Committee's decision within ten (10) business days of receipt of the response of the CASA staff/volunteer or longer if additional time for investigation is necessary pursuant to paragraph (e) above.
(h) A CASA staff/volunteer may, within five (5) business days of receipt of notification that he/she has been suspended or removed from the Cowlitz County registry, request a hearing on the Committee's decision. The presiding Juvenile Judge shall designate a hearing officer. The sole purpose of the hearing shall be to review the appropriateness of the suspension or removal from the Cowlitz County registry. The hearing officer shall review the written record of the instant complaint and any prior complaints the Committee considered, and hear oral arguments from the CASA staff/volunteer or their representative and a representative of the Committee. Said hearing shall be conducted within twenty (20) days of the receipt of the request for the hearing. The decision of the hearing officer shall be final and binding upon the parties.
[Adopted September 1, 2002; amended September 1, 2012; amended September 1, 2018; amended September 1, 2019]