Citizen Complaint Toolkit
Frequently Asked Questions About Citizen Reports, Correcting Deficiencies and Counseling the Driver.
Q. What should I do if the misuse report is not founded?
A. The driver was doing everything right. There is nothing to correct or counsel. Include why the use was appropriate. This is an opportunity to improve public relations. It is a chance to educate the public about the type of services state government provides.
Q. When misuse is confirmed, I may need to discipline. What do I need to report?
A. Discipline is a personnel matter. It should not be detailed in your response. However, you can respond to the citizen’s report by indicating that you have identified some deficiencies and are taking action to correct them.
Q. The driver denies the allegations. What should I do?
A. Drivers are often unaware of habitual driving behaviors that trigger reports. Usually we see this response when the report alleges the driver failed to signal or was tailgating. It is an opportunity to be reminded that driving an e-plate is a very public activity. In your response make a statement about what you have done to address the report. It could be as simple as “I reviewed the concern with the driver and reinforced the expectation of safe, legal and courteous driving.”
Q. The driver says “I was driving with the flow of traffic.” What should I do?
A. Driving with the flow of traffic is not necessarily legal or safe. Yet it is very frequently cited by drivers and recorded in the agency response without comment. Make sure you document your reply to the driver on this point.
Q. The driver says “The person who complained reported just doesn’t like government. They are just looking to make trouble.”
A. Maybe. But, we have seen this reply from drivers when the citizen reports came from other government or state employees, Risk Management employees and even agency heads. In fact, these folks are very concerned about “government.” So regardless of suspected motivations of the citizen making the report, we need to affirm our commitment to safe and courteous driving. Make a note in your response.
Q. Some questions don’t relate to this specific report. Why should I waste time answering them?
A. This may be true. But it may also be the only time you can check to be sure your overall driver safety and vehicle use program is functioning. Use it to spot check driving records and driver training. The media and the legislature continue to focus attention on the use of state vehicles and state driving. Our files are public records. Think about what the “public” (media or legislator) may read. Your agency response is usually the first thing seen in a file. If you will not be checking on a question, note why in your response.
Q. Should everyone have to go to defensive driving classes after a report?
A. We do not want to turn a defensive driving class into a “punishment” for getting a report. Sometimes the report has nothing to do with defensive driving. Most driving problems are performance problems – not training inadequacy. So make a note to that effect. But if driving is an essential function, or if your driver was transporting a client, you may want to explain why you don’t think a defensive driving class is necessary in this instance.
Q. Are there any specific vehicles that are special cause for concern?
A. If the vehicle in the report is a 15 Passenger Van we strongly recommend you make certain the response includes your agency’s specific actions to this special and well-publicized risk. Check out the information on our Web site about risk control recommendations for the operation of 15 passenger vans.
Q. What if the investigation uncovers more problems than the initial report?
A. Sometimes your investigation uncovers a violation of the vehicle use and access rules. For instance, you discover a non-authorized driver or passenger. Even though that is not the substance of the report, please tell us that you are taking corrective action.
Q. My driver is being stalked. What should I do?
A. Respond to the report and tell us about your concerns. We will take appropriate action to protect the driver´s information.
Q. We only check driving records when we hire an employee.
A. Record checks take time and resources. But driving is a major risk for injury, liability and reputation. This is a business decision for which your agency is accountable.
Q. This is a long term employee. We just did a record check and found out that there are a lot of off-the-job driving problems. But it’s the first on-the-job issue. What should we do?
A. Make sure the off-the-job problems have not affected the license to drive. If the driver’s license is valid, then check your agency driving record requirements. If the record does not meet your requirements, then you will need to take action based on your agency policy.
Q. Some citizens are very angry. State drivers are targets. What should we do?
- If you do not have a policy, then you need to counsel the employee and set expectations. Work with your Human Resources office and Labor Relations specialist to address this specific driver’s performance.
- Something to think about – your employee may not think their driving record is so bad. For them, speeding tickets, minor crashes or frequent traffic violations may seem normal. And people drive the way they drive. It is hard to avoid driving habits once they are established. You’ll need to set clear expectations about on-the-job performance. And remember, if this employee is involved in a bad crash, and the media discovers their driving record, it will be your agency that will need to explain why you let them drive on the job.
A. In some cases citizens have followed state drivers, confront them shouting and gesturing and in one case, the driver reported the citizen bumped the state car with theirs.
- First, our goal is that state driving does not attract the attention of the public. This can be accomplished through legal, courteous and safe driving performance.
- If a citizen approaches, the state driver will need to assess whether there is a real threat. Threat Assessment should be included in your agency’s basic safety and security training for your workforce.
- Drivers should be prepared to use de-escalation techniques to calm the situation. If it is a “Road rage” event, police advise avoiding eye-contact. Keep hands on the wheel. Move into the right lane when it is safe to do so.
- In no case should the state driver engage an angry citizen. The state driver can calmly tell the citizen to take down the state license plate number and call Risk Management at (503)373-RISK. There is an accident packet in the glove box of each state vehicle. It contains our phone number.
- If the citizen is shouting or upset and unreasonable, the state driver should take note of their appearance. If they are in a vehicle, get a description and plate number. Get away from the area as quickly as possible. Report the event to a supervisor promptly. Provide a detailed description of the citizen. If the citizen threatens physical harm, call the police.
- In one case it was reported that the citizen bumped the state car with their private car. If something like this happens, direct the driver to get a description of the car and citizen. Get a license plate number. Report it to a manager as soon as possible.
- One citizen reported that the state driver refused to identify himself or answer questions. What is OK for your driver to tell a citizen about what they are doing? That is something you should work out with program managers. It will depend on specifics of your program.