"Co-op/Condo Ombudsman Bill" in NYS Senate

I came across this interesting article stating there is currently a bill in the New York State Senate proposing the creation of an Ombudsman for co-ops and condos in the state.

The office would be funded through a new tax of $6 added to the fees paid by each co-op and condo unit.

The ombuds office would oversee board elections, use ADR services such as mediation for disputes, have the authority to subpoena and hold hearings, give public talks, host meetings as well as raise awareness of rights and responsibilities.

Read the article [here].

From the NYS Senate website [here], it shows the sponsor of the bill is State Senator Liz Kruger of Manhattan. Currently, I am unaware if there is a similar Bill in the Assembly.

Some important facts from the Bill:

-"The bill creates the Office of the Cooperative and Condominium Ombudsman within the Department of Law to serve as a neutral, informative, and accessible resource available to cooperative and condominium residents, prospective shareholders and unit owners, boards of directors and managers, and other affected parties. "




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Long Term Care Ombudsman

Perhaps it’s her big smile, the friendly eyes behind her wire-rimmed glasses or the way she doesn’t let a simple “I’m fine” pass without a follow-up question.

Judith Sullivan, 66, is a volunteer with the Coulee Region Volunteer Ombudsman Program for the Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long Term Care. Once a week she knocks on the doors of resident rooms at Bethany St. Joseph Care Center in La Crosse. She asks about the food, the staff and their overall well-being. She typically hears no complaint. But, when residents have a problem, she isn’t afraid to tell the administration.

“My role here is (to be) the eyes of the public and the voice of the residents,” she said.

....The Volunteer Ombudsman Program was started in 1994 to reduce the burden on regional ombudsmen — 14 paid employees who monitor 400 nursing homes in the state. In 2008, the program expanded to 20 new counties, including those in the Coulee Region, said Karen Price, coordinator of the program. Eight volunteer ombudsmen are now serving in La Crosse County, and Price is searching for more. The main qualifications? Be open-minded and care about others, Price said.

Read the full article [here] and learn more about the Wisconsin Board on Aging & Long Term Care Volunteer Ombudsman Program [here].

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What?? Noise Ombudsman Appointed In Australia

Australia's first independent aircraft noise ombudsman will have his work cut out for him.

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese announced the appointment of Ron Brent to the position on Tuesday.Mr Brent will have the task of reviewing the handling of complaints about airport noise and the efficiency of community consultation processes on airport noise.

From the Sydney Morning Herald [here].
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WSJ: New ADR Services For Healthcare Field

Not sure if everyone read this already (I was away for a few days) but this sounds pretty impactful in the healthcare field as we as the ADR field.

From the Wall Street Journal on July 22nd:
To cut medical-malpractice costs, five New York City hospitals have agreed to a pilot program to divulge medical mistakes early, offer settlements quickly and use special state "health courts,'' where judges will help negotiate agreements before cases go to trial.

..."Judge-directed negotiations'' will likely resemble a long-time mediation effort by Bronx Judge Douglas McKeon, who is credited with helping to cut malpractice costs incurred by New York City's Health and Hospitals Corp., which runs the city's public hospitals. The mediation effort has cut payouts to $130 million this year, from a high of $196 million in 2003, said Al Aviles, HHC's president.

...Nicholas I. Timko, president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, said he was hopeful but had concerns. "We favor initiatives that promote patient safety, but are concerned that the disclosure and early settlement program may allow negligent providers to escape responsibility for their actions and exploit patients unrepresented by counsel,'' he said.

Read the full article [here].

Of course this raises many, many questions. To start with, here are two:

1) is this a new form of med-arb?

2) Do the judges have any formal mediation training?

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Divorce Mediation Article in USA Today

An interesting article today from USAToday.com which mentions some of the advantages to mediating a divorce:

No one keeps statistics on the number of mediated and collaborative divorces. But Zarzynski, during 31 years of practice, has seen the trend firsthand. When he started, mediated cases were rare. Ten years ago, he mediated about a dozen a year; last year, that number was 75.

A typical traditional divorce can stretch out for months — even years — and cost both parties $15,000 to $25,000.

Zarzynski says a mediated divorce, on average, costs $1,000 and takes 70 days, including the state's mandatory cooling-off period of 60 days.

...Over the past 30 years, mediation's popularity has grown as an alternative to going to court across the U.S. in all kinds of legal disputes. In California, mediation is mandatory for contested child custody and visitation. And, in attempts to ease the negative effects of divorce on children, at least 28 states require divorcing couples to attend parenting classes that among other things teach the importance of parenting together.

Full article [HERE]

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Mediators' "Defining" Moment!

I came across this on a listserv I belong to and thought some would find it of interest:


Looking for a defining opportunity for you (and our profession) to be heard? Here's one such opportunity brought to you by NAFCM: the National Association For Community Mediation.

The Department of Labor (DOL) wants to know what it takes to be an "expert mediator" and have turned to NAFCM for help. As a member-based organization serving hundreds of mediators and community mediation centers - which, in turn, oversee thousands of skilled mediators nationwide - NAFCM is a natural fit to help the DOL identify the education, training, experience, and skills which combine to form our field's best practitioners.

Here is how you can help shape the definition of "Mediator" for years to come:

By Wednesday, July 21st, at 5:00 pm PDT, send an e-mail to Justin R. Corbett, Executive Director of NAFCM, at corbett@nafcm.org with the following information:
Your name,
Your contact information (phone, e-mail, and postal address), and
A brief (single paragraph) overview of your experience as a mediator (or mediation educator, trainer, coordinator, etc.).

This information will then be shared with the DOL. A random sample of respondents will be sent a 90-minute, confidential questionnaire, available to complete either online or via paper form, which examines a series of characteristic and competence metrics NAFCM has helped the DOL develop. After completion, participants will be provided a congratulatory letter from both the DOL and NAFCM. More importantly, however, is the satisfaction of having helped to shape a detailed report on what it takes to be a mediator. This new description will be used by the federal government, and will be accessible online for all those considering a career or a volunteer commitment as a mediator.

"Expert mediators" can be market-oriented, court-connected, and/or community-based practitioners. Diversity of experience, focus, frameworks, and context is encouraged to develop the most robust, inclusive definition of mediator characteristics. Define your moment and define our field by sending a message to corbett@nafcm.org NOW!
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New Gorilla Experiment!

This is absolute gold for mediation and conflict resolution trainers!

The famous "Invisible Gorilla Experiment" from 10+ years ago which just about every trainer uses t received a modern update.

For those who do not know what I am talking about and those who do, watch the video below:

Read the article [here].

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For those who miss the monthly NYC-DR Roundtable Breakfast meetings sponsored by ACRGNY and John Jay College due to schedules (yes, we are all very busy conflict resolvers) or due to locations (I guess everyone doesn't live in New York City!), I plan to write a recap of each gathering I attend.

You can join the listserv by clicking [here].

Note 1: this is not an official recap nor is it intended to be one but rather it is just a posting of my notes and recollection from the day.

Note #2: For this month I credit Maria Volpe for editing this- Thanks!I

I hope you enjoy and feedback is always welcome!

For those not familiar with Christopher Cooper or his recent article he sent to the NYC-DR listserv, I suggest you read it [here]. Dr. Cooper, an attorney in Chicago, a former police officer in Washington, DC and born and raised in New York City, was the guest speaker at the July NYC-DR ROUNDTABLE co-sponsored by the Association for Conflict Resolution and the CUNY Dispute Resolution Consortium at John Jay College.

Julie Denny described Chris as ‘passionate’ when introducing him to the audience. In fact, Chris is passionate. He is vibrant and believes in using communication and understanding to resolve issues while not afraid of bringing to light situations where people have been wronged and mistreated.

Chris has a distinct ability to write articles that maintain the passion which he often displays in person be it during an interpersonal conversation or during a public talk. I have spoken with Chris many times and consider myself fortunate enough to engage him to discuss (and debate!) many issues surrounding conflict resolution and policing issues. I do not always agree with Chris but I do admire his passion. I think passion, when not becoming overwhelming and controlling one’s actions like emotions, is needed and should not be absent in us as conflict professionals.

His recent article titled, Sexual Abuse & When The Arbitration Process Really Fails was the subject of the June Roundtable.


Well besides the fact it probably broke a record of responses on the approximately 1800+ person NYC-DR listserv (I think there were over 100 responses), everyone I think likes to chime in and explain how they think the police can do a better job!

Drawing on this animated context, Chris started his talk by asking a question: “What is a dignified response by the police to an interpersonal dispute?” It quickly generated numerous responses and he then followed it up with thought provoking open-ended questions such as, “Does ethnicity/race matter in the response?”

Chris showed a video with two role play simulations of him and another officer responding to a dispute in a dorm room between two female students. The two clips showed how the officers have the ability to escalate or de-escalate a situation based on their use of conflict resolution skills (words, tone, haptics, chronemics, kinesics, proxemics- all things I find incredibly important... and fascinating...go ahead, call me a dork!).

*He noted how police can use mediation skills in certain situations as well as how they can refer selected cases to community mediation centers.

*He explained that the benefits of using mediation skills for police officers include: the reduction of return calls to a location; lessening of the likelihood that situations wlll become violent; and improvement of relationships between the police and those they serve.

*Chris noted how using mediation skills expands the conversation. The example he gave was of police responding to a scene at 3am where a boyfriend has been kicked out of his apartment. A (wrong) response could be to tell the boyfriend to go to court, whereas using mediation skills could help in gathering more information and cooling down tempers. Perhaps helping the boyfriend get his jacket and a few belongings could help him leave. He jokingly commented that helping the boyfriend gather some belongings means getting his jacket, not the couch!

*Chris commented that some unions and officers do not embrace the use of mediation skills since the positive use of mediation skills in situations can result in fewer officers being needed for the reduced number of police calls.

*Chris mentioned that there are different styles of policing based on race or ethnicity. He stated research shows white disputants in non-arrestable situations are met more times with the police engaging in a collaborative approach (regardless of the race/ethnicity of the officer) compared to minority disputants.

*An audience member asked, "What do we do then?” Chris mentioned multiple times throughout the talk that he believes it is important that proper people are hired to become officers. Audience members stated training is also crucial, but from my perception, it seemed Chris believed hiring practices are of greater importance.

*Different jurisdictions were mentioned to illustrate how the police can be more engaging, and Chris mentioned how in Canada, officers are required to remove their sunglasses when conversing with the public.

*Some asked me (yes me, I am a detective in law enforcement after all!), if I utilized smiling to engage people. I stated I did, but that it depends on the situation. I remarked that one needs to look at situations not only from the officers’ perspective but through the mediator’s lens, that smiling is just one element in building rapport. Building rapport, be it as a mediator with your parties or as a police officer engaging the community, is a critical element that cannot be overlooked yet I think it is hard for people to explain how they actually do it.

*Some attendees referred to the video and mentioned a great way for officers to promote conflict resolution skills with the people they are engaged in is “teaching through actions.” (I nodded and said yes! Just like mediators!).

*Something I noticed, and mentioned to Chris and the audience was the importance of nonverbal communication in the video clips; if we watched both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ videos without sound, much of the actions of the officers beyond the words spoken really controlled the direction of the situation. “Teaching by action” can be both good and bad.

*Chris’s presentation lasted for just over an hour and those familiar with the interactions during the listserv discussion might have been surprised that it was absent some of the actions taken on the listserv like people quitting (I guess the equivalent would be getting up and publically announcing they were leaving?), name calling, or people telling others what direction the conversation should be taking.

Overall, I think Chris’s passion did in fact shine through and the audience was engaged and interested in the topic. The morning provided an opportunity for respectful dialogue and feedback- all of which left me realizing how, at times, electronic communication can be different from face to face interactions!

read more " "

Washington Post Ombudsman Finds Few Staffers Know Opinionating Rules

In the wake of the Dave Weigel controversy at the Washington Post, the paper’s ombudsman Andrew Alexander admits there are numerous instances of reporters, bloggers, and “contributing editors” offering their opinions under the WaPo brand but few knew that guidelines even existed on proper conduct.

Underscoring the blurred lines when reporters and bloggers also offer opinions–both for the paper and in media appearances–WaPo’s Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli acknowledged to Alexander “that readers may be confused by Post journalists who ‘wear more than one hat’ when they ‘opine in one forum and appear to report in another forum,’” and suggested there should be more transparency about what people do and where people stand.

Read more [here].
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Ireland- Lawyers Urged To 'Buy Into' Mediation

More lawyers need to become involved in mediation, a group of lawyer and non-lawyer mediators told CAROL COULTER.

...The Chief Justice and many other judges have expressed their support for the wider use of mediation in family law – and, indeed, other – disputes, and provision now exists in the Commercial Court for cases to be adjourned for mediation. The Legal Aid Board has taken steps to increase use of mediation by its solicitors. Yet the proportion of family law cases being mediated remains low, partly because of lingering suspicion of the process among lawyers.

...The other main difficulty is that quite often, parties reach agreement with little or no legal advice, and not knowing what they are compromising. The mediator then draws up a Memorandum of Understanding, which is signed by the parties, and at that stage they are advised to consult their own solicitor. If they have not had advice up to this point, and entered mediation with misconceptions about the family law system, they could find that they are told the proposed agreement is a bad one from their point of view.

Full article [here].
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CVS To Use Mediation For Disputes

Caremark, the largest pharmacy health care provider in the United States, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced the signing of a National Universal Agreement to Mediate (NUAM) to informally resolve workplace disputes through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) before an EEOC investigation or potential litigation occurs.
...Under the terms of the NUAM, which was negotiated by the EEOC’s Miami District Office, any eligible discrimination charge filed with the EEOC in any of its 53 offices naming CVS or Caremark as the employer/respondent will be referred to mediation, as appropriate.
...The mediation partnership with CVS Caremark marks the 200th such national or regional agreement between the EEOC and a large employer...

Full article [here].
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Tony Blair Awarded Prestigious U.S. Liberty Medal

LONDON (July 1) -- The announcement that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is set to receive the prestigious Liberty Medal for his "relentless" work in conflict resolution has been greeted with gasps of surprise in his homeland.

...So the country was stunned to hear that the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia was handing their former leader the 2010 Liberty Medal. (Previous winners include Nelson Mandela, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and U2 singer Bono.) David Eisner, the center's president, said that Blair was a worthy winner because of "his dedication to and his success in building understanding among nations and creating lasting solutions in areas of conflict."

Full article [here].
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BP Looking To Shut Down Ombuds Office!

Washington (CNN) -- BP has been trying to shut down an internal safety watchdog agency it set up under congressional pressure four years ago, according to sources close to the office and a leading congressman.

The Ombudsman Program was set up after a 2005 explosion at a BP refinery in Texas that killed 15 workers and a massive oil spill in Alaska the following year. Its chief, former federal judge Stanley Sporkin, would not comment for this story -- but a source inside his office told CNN, "I'm surprised we're still here."

...sources close to the office say BP doesn't like having independent investigators pursuing those complaints. A union representative told CNN that some workers who complained have faced retaliation.

...BP has said it can do a good job investigating complaints through an established internal system -- without the ombudsman's office.

Read the full article [here].

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