Chapter 2.11
OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC ADVOCATE

Sections:

2.11.010    Creation and purpose.

2.11.020    Public advocate.

2.11.030    Definitions.

2.11.040    Appointment of the public advocate.

2.11.050    Term.

2.11.060    Qualifications.

2.11.070    Removal.

2.11.080    Organization of office.

2.11.090    Appointment of pro tem public advocate.

2.11.100    Powers of the public advocate.

2.11.110    Cooperation with requests from the office of the public advocate.

2.11.120    Investigation of complaints.

2.11.130    Written reports.

2.11.140    Severability.

2.11.150    Repealed.

2.11.010 Creation and purpose.

Pursuant to Snohomish county charter section 2.160, the office of public advocate is hereby created. The purpose of this chapter is:

To establish an office of the public advocate that shall function independently, subject to administrative direction by the council chairperson or chief of staff. The office will receive, investigate, and make recommendations to the council and appropriate county agencies on complaints concerning the operation of county government and respond to inquiries from the public concerning the operation of county government.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Amended by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).

2.11.020 Public advocate.

Pursuant to Snohomish county charter section 2.160, the position of county public advocate, hereinafter referred to as public advocate, is hereby created.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Amended by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).

2.11.030 Definitions.

Unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the definitions in this section shall apply throughout this chapter.

(1) "Agency" means any department, office or other governmental unit of the county, or any employee of the county acting or purporting to act by reason of a connection with the county, except:

(a) The judicial branch of the county;

(b) The county prosecuting attorney and the staff of the county prosecuting attorney;

(c) Any governmental entity other than the county; and

(d) Any private business or nonprofit organization.

(2) "Operation of county government" means an action, decision, failure to act, omission, interpretation, recommendation, policy, practice or procedure of any agency. Operation of county government shall specifically exclude actions that are the subject of complaints or petitions under chapters 2.50 and 2.51 SCC.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Amended by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).

2.11.040 Appointment of the public advocate.

If the county council fails to reappoint the incumbent, or the position of public advocate otherwise becomes vacant, a majority of the members of the full county council shall appoint a new public advocate as follows. Within 30 days of the vacancy, the county executive shall nominate two individuals who meet the qualifications set forth in SCC 2.11.060 for the position of public advocate for consideration by the county council. The county council shall either appoint an individual from the county executive’s nominees or an individual of the county council’s own choosing provided that the county council finds either that the executive failed to submit two nominations within 30 days of a vacancy or that the county executive’s nominees fail to meet the qualifications set forth in SCC 2.11.060. Notwithstanding the foregoing, upon the creation of the office of public advocate, the person currently holding the title of ombudsman shall be deemed to have been appointed for purposes of the initial one year term, effective January 1, 2017.

The position of public advocate may not remain vacant for more than 120 days.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Amended by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).

2.11.050 Term.

The public advocate shall be appointed for terms that will expire one year following the date of original appointment and thereafter expire two years following the date of each reappointment by the county council. The public advocate shall be subject to the county exempt personnel system.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Amended by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).

2.11.060 Qualifications.

The public advocate shall be appointed solely with regard to his or her qualifications for the duties of the office, and shall hold no other elective or appointive office or position in county government. The public advocate shall be a person of recognized judgment, objectivity and integrity, who is well-equipped to analyze problems of law, administration, and public policy. The position requires a degree from an accredited college or its equivalent in service to government.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Amended by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).

2.11.070 Removal.

A minimum of four affirmative votes by the county council acting by motion shall be required to remove the public advocate from office for any reason.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Amended by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).

2.11.080 Organization of office.

The office of the public advocate is under the administrative supervision of the public advocate. The public advocate may, subject to appropriation and in accordance with the rules of the county personnel system and exempt personnel system, select, appoint, and compensate such other employees as the public advocate deems necessary to discharge the duties of the office of the public advocate. The office shall use generally accepted standards for similar offices.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Amended by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).

2.11.090 Appointment of pro tem public advocate.

The council may also by professional service contract appoint for terms and functions deemed appropriate by the council, a public advocate to serve in the event of absence or inability to act of the public advocate.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Amended by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).

2.11.100 Powers of the public advocate.

The powers of the public advocate shall include:

(1) To receive, investigate, and make recommendations to the council and appropriate county agencies on complaints concerning the operation of county government and to respond to inquiries from the public concerning the operation of county government;

(2) To determine the methods by which complaints are made, received, and acted upon;

(3) To determine whether the public advocate may investigate a complaint without regard to the finality of the administrative act;

(4) To determine the scope and manner of investigations of complaints;

(5) To determine the form, frequency, and distribution of the public advocate’s conclusions and recommendations;

(6) To make such inquiries and obtain such assistance and information from any agency as the public advocate shall require for the discharge of the public advocate’s duties;

(7) To keep confidential any complaint or investigative information, subject to applicable law;

(8) To employ legal counsel as allowed by the laws of the state of Washington and the county charter;

(9) To adopt, promulgate and amend policies and procedures required for the discharge of the public advocate’s duties, including the procedures for receiving and processing complaints, conducting investigations, and reporting findings, conclusions, and recommendations;

(10) To prepare and submit to the executive annual budget estimates for the office as provided in SCC 4.26.030;

(11) To delegate functions, powers and duties, except this power of delegation, to other officers and employees of the office as the public advocate deems expedient to further the purposes of this chapter;

(12) To make and publish conclusions, recommendations, and suggestions; and

(13) To monitor and report to the council on the nature and disposition of whistleblower, ethics and human rights complaints filed pursuant to other county ordinances or procedures.

The public advocate shall exercise his or her powers under this chapter consistent with contractual obligations of the county and applicable law.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Amended by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).

2.11.110 Cooperation with requests from the office of the public advocate.

Agencies shall have a duty to cooperate fully with requests from the office of the public advocate under this chapter.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Amended by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).

2.11.120 Investigation of complaints.

The public advocate may investigate any operation of county government which is the subject of a citizen complaint or which, in the opinion of the public advocate, may be:

(1) Contrary to law or regulation;

(2) Based on mistaken facts or irrelevant considerations;

(3) Inefficiently performed;

(4) Unclear or inadequately explained when reasons should have been revealed;

(5) Unreasonable, unfair, oppressive, or inconsistent with the general course of an administrative agency’s functioning;

(6) Improper in motivation or based on irrelevant considerations; or

(7) Otherwise inconsistent with accepted government practices or principles, or incompatible with the spirit or intent of the Snohomish County Charter.

Prior to formally issuing a conclusion or recommendation, the public advocate shall consult with the agency and provide the agency a copy of the public advocate’s preliminary conclusion or recommendation and a reasonable opportunity to reply. The agency may not release the public advocate’s preliminary conclusion or recommendation, subject to applicable law.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Amended by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).

2.11.130 Written reports.

The public advocate may from time to time and shall annually report to the county council on the activities of the office of the public advocate.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Amended by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).

2.11.140 Severability.

If any section, subsection, clause, phrase, or portion of this chapter is held invalid, such portion shall be deemed a separate, distinct, and independent provision; and such decision shall not affect the validity of any other portion of this chapter.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Amended by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).

2.11.150 Effective date.

(Added by Amended Ord. 14-077, Oct. 8, 2014, Eff date Oct. 30, 2014; Repealed by Ord. 17-024, May 17, 2017, Eff date June 1, 2017).