SECTION ONE: GUIDING PRINCIPLES
1.01 Informal Process
The College encourages the public to discuss concerns with an appropriate administrator who has the authority to address the concerns. Concerns should be expressed as soon as possible to allow early resolution at the lowest possible administrative level. Informal resolution shall be encouraged but shall not extend any deadlines in this regulation, except by mutual written consent.
1.02 Formal Process
An individual may initiate the formal process described below by timely filing a written complaint form. Even after initiating the formal complaint process, individuals are encouraged to seek informal resolution of their concerns. An individual whose concerns are resolved may withdraw a formal complaint at any time. The process described in this regulation shall not be construed to create new or additional rights beyond those granted by law or College policy, nor to require a full evidentiary hearing or “mini-trial” at any level.
1.03 Freedom from Retaliation
Neither the Board nor any College employee shall unlawfully retaliate against any individual for bringing a concern or complaint.
In this regulation, the term “complaint” and “grievance” shall have the same meaning. This regulation shall apply to all complaints from the public except complaints regarding a commissioned peace officer who is an employee of the College.
SECTION TWO: GENERAL PROVISIONS
Complaint forms and appeal notices may be filed by hand-delivery, by electronic communication, including e-mail and fax, or by U.S. Mail. Hand-delivered filings shall be timely filed if received by the appropriate administrator or designee by the close of business on the deadline. Filings submitted by electronic communication shall be timely filed if they are received by the close of business on the deadline, as indicated by the date/time shown on the electronic communication. Mail filings shall be timely filed if they are postmarked by U.S. Mail on or before the deadline and received by the appropriate administrator or designated representative no more than three days after the deadline.
2.01 Scheduling Conferences
The College District shall make reasonable attempts to schedule conferences at a mutually agreeable time. If the individual fails to appear at a scheduled conference, the College District may hold the conference and issue a decision in the individual’s absence.
At Levels One and Two, “response” shall mean a written communication to the individual from the appropriate administrator. Responses may be hand-delivered, sent by electronic communication to the individual’s e-mail address of record, or sent by U.S. Mail to the individual’s mailing address of record. Mailed responses shall be timely if they are postmarked by U.S. Mail on or before the deadline.
“Days” shall mean College District business days. In calculating timelines under this policy, the day a document is filed is “day zero.” The following day is “day one.”
“Representative” shall mean any person who or organization that is designated by an individual to represent the individual in the complaint process. The individual may designate a representative through written notice to the College at any level of this process. If the individual designates a representative with fewer than three days’ notice to the College before a scheduled conference or hearing, the College may reschedule the conference or hearing to a later date, if desired, in order to include the College’s counsel. The College may be represented by counsel at any level of the process.
2.05 Consolidating Complaints
Complaints arising out of an event or a series of related events shall be addressed in one complaint. An individual shall not file separate or serial complaints arising from any event or series of events that have been or could have been addressed in a previous complaint.
2.06 Untimely Filings All time limits shall be strictly followed unless modified by mutual written consent. If a complaint form or appeal notice is not timely filed, the complaint may be dismissed, on written notice to the individual, at any point during the complaint process. The individual may appeal the dismissal by seeking review in writing within ten days from the date of the written dismissal notice, starting at the level at which the complaint was dismissed. Such appeal shall be limited to the issue of timeliness.
2.07 Costs Incurred
Each party shall pay its own costs incurred in the course of the complaint.
2.08 Complaint and Appeal Form
Complaints and appeals under this regulation shall be submitted in writing on a form provided by the College (see GB Exhibit). Copies of any documents that support the complaint should be attached to the complaint form. If the individual does not have copies of these documents, they may be presented at the Level One conference. After the Level One conference, no new documents may be submitted by the individual unless the individual did not know the documents existed before the Level One conference. A complaint or appeal form that is incomplete in any material aspect may be dismissed, but may be refiled with all the required information if the refiling is within the designated time for filing.
SECTION THREE: COMPLAINT PROCESS
3.01 Level One
Complaints should be filed with the lowest level Complaint forms must be filed:0)
1. Within 15 days of the date the individual first knew, or with reasonable diligence should have known, of the decision or action giving rise to the complaint or grievance; and
2. With the lowest level administrator who has the authority to remedy the alleged problem.
If the only administrator who has authority to remedy the alleged problem is the College President or designee, the complaint may begin at Level Two following the procedure, including deadlines, for filing the complaint form at Level One.
The appropriate administrator shall investigate as necessary and schedule a conference with the individual within ten days after receipt of the written complaint. The administrator may set reasonable time limits for the conference.
Absent extenuating circumstances, the administrator shall provide the individual a written response within ten days following the conference. The written response shall set forth the basis of the decision. In reaching a decision, the administrator may consider information provided at the Level One conference and any relevant documents or information.
3.02 Level Two
If the individual did not receive the relief requested at Level One or if the time for a response has expired, he or she may request a conference with the College President or designee to appeal the Level One decision.
The appeal notice must be filed in writing, on a form provided by the College, within ten days of the date of the written Level One response or, if no response was received, within ten days of the Level One response deadline.
After receiving notice of the appeal, the Level One administrator shall prepare and forward a record of the Level One complaint to the Level Two administrator. The individual may request a copy of the Level One record.
The Level One record shall include:
1. The original complaint form and any attachments.
2. All other documents submitted by the individual at Level One.
3. Any audio recording or video/audio recording of the Level One conference.
4. The written response issued at Level One and any attachments.
5. All other documents relied upon by the Level One administrator in reaching the Level One decision.
The Level Two administrator shall schedule a conference within ten days after the appeal notice is filed. The conference shall be limited to the issues and documents presented at Level One. At the conference, the individual may provide information concerning any documents or information relied upon by the administration for the Level One decision. The Level Two administrator may set reasonable time limits for the conference.
The Level Two administrator shall provide the individual a written response within ten days following the conference. The written response shall set forth the basis of the decision. In reaching a decision, the Level Two administrator may consider the Level One record, information provided at the Level Two conference, and any other relevant documents or information the Level Two administrator believes will help resolve the complaint.
Recordings of the Level One and Level Two conferences, if any, shall be maintained with the Level One and Level Two records.
3.03 Level Three
If the individual did not receive the relief requested at Level Two or if the time for a response has expired, he or she may appeal the decision to the Board.
The appeal notice must be filed with the Office of the President in writing, on a form provided by the College, within ten days of the date of the written Level Two response or, if no response was received, within ten days of the Level Two response deadline.
The College President or designee shall inform the individual of the date, time, and place of the Board meeting at which the complaint will be on the agenda for presentation to the Board.
The College President or designee shall provide the Board with the record of the Level Two complaint. The individual may request a copy of the Level Two record.
The Level Two record shall include:
1. The Level One record.
2. Any audio recording or video/audio recording of the Level One and/or Level Two conferences.
3. The written response issued at Level Two and any attachments.
4. All other documents relied upon by the administration in reaching the Level Two decision.
The appeal shall be limited to the issues and documents presented at Level Two, except that if at the Level Three hearing the administration intends to rely on evidence not included in the Level Two record, the administration shall provide the individual notice of the nature of the evidence at least three days before the hearing.
The College shall determine whether the complaint will be presented in open or closed meeting in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act and other applicable law.
The presiding officer may set reasonable time limits and guidelines for the presentation including an opportunity for the individual and administration to each make a presentation and provide rebuttal and an opportunity for questioning by the Board. The Board shall hear the complaint and may request that the administration provide an explanation for the decisions at the preceding levels.
In addition to any other record of the Board meeting required by law, the Board shall prepare a separate record of the Level Three presentation. The Level Three presentation, including the presentation by the individual or his or her representative, any presentation from the administration, and questions from the Board with responses, shall be recorded by audio recording, video/audio recording, or court reporter.
The Board shall then consider the complaint. It may give notice of its decision orally or in writing at any time up to and including the next regularly scheduled Board meeting. If the Board does not make a decision regarding the complaint by the end of the next regularly scheduled meeting, the lack of a response by the Board upholds the administrative decision at Level Two.