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The Office of the Ombuds has jurisdiction to investigate complaints about the administrative conduct of executive branch agencies, including the Departments of Assessments and Elections, and the Sheriff's Office. The Ombuds authority and jurisdiction are detailed in King County Code 2.52. We investigate complaints that assert a County agency or employee is acting in a manner that is unfair, arbitrary, inconsistent, or contrary to law.

We do not have the authority to investigate the administrative conduct of:

  • Members of the Metropolitan King County Council and their staffs
  • The King County Executive and his/her personal staff
  • The Prosecuting Attorney and his/her staff
  • Judges and their staffs
  • Any city, state, or federal agencies
  • Any private business or non-profit agency

Complaint Investigation and Resolution

The majority of complaints are resolved through information and referral, or assistance and facilitation. Complaints that we are unable to resolve with staff-level inquiries are handled as complaint investigations, which are summarized and sent to the subject agency director for review and response.

Complaint investigations seek to: (a) determine if the complaint was substantiated or unsubstantiated, (b) make recommendations to the department for improved practices or policy changes, and (c) resolve the problem.

We are not an office of first recourse. We recommend that customers try to resolve their issue with the agency before contacting our office. Please refer to the Problem Solving Tips below for some pointers. The Ombuds office is also available for coaching and guidance in problem solving procedures and techniques, if you need additional help.

Problem Solving Tips

Write it down. Whether you are seeking service or filing a complaint, keep records of the contact you have with an agency. Record the names of the staff people you speak with, and include the date of your conversation. Keep copies of all documents you receive or provide the agency. A chronological sequence of contacts and dates is helpful in explaining your problem to the agency.

Ask questions. Some good questions to ask:

  • Why was my request denied?
  • What law or policy applies?
  • Was the law or policy applied consistently?
  • What appeal process (if any) is available?

Be clear and pleasant. Before you contact an agency, determine exactly what the problem is and what remedy you are seeking. Pleasantly state the issue and what you want. Public employees, like most of us, respond favorably when a positive and courteous approach is used.

Be persistent. Persist in your effort to resolve the issue. Ask to speak with a supervisor if the staff person is unable to assist you. Be sure you are asking the right question and are focusing on a resolution, rather than just recounting the transgression. Find out if the agency needs any additional information from you that will help them better understand the problem, and diligently follow up.

Download a PDF of the "Office of Citizen Complaints Code" (KCC 2.52). 

Download a PDF of a "Ombudsman Complaint Form" (PDF)

Alternate formats for persons with disabilities available upon request.