- As an Association, ethical business dealings factor prominently. One of the core values that the Association provides to its membership is derived from how the Association is perceived by those outside of it in terms of its members' business dealings and practices. As members, we have all committed to abide by a Code of Practice and to uphold the highest professional ethics of craft.
Membership in an Association is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it gives its members an additional layer of credibility through association. On the other hand, it demands that its members abide by those principles or face sanctions appropriate to the nature of the transgression. Those that fail to uphold the latter cause harm to the other Members through a loss of the Association's credibility.
The Association’s complaint process is intended to follow up on violations on the Code of Conduct. It is not intended to resolve contractual differences nor is it intended as a substitute for the Courts. Should a complaint involve issues associated with the performance of a contract, those seeking resolution must do so through the appropriate Civil Courts with jurisdiction. The first stage of the intake process is a review of the complaint submission against the requirements set forth below and conducted by a delegated member of the Association who sits in support of the Executive and operates independently of the industry.
The Association maintains a professional conduct complaint capacity. It is directly overseen by the President and has certain set criteria that must be abided by. These are the following:
- The Association will action a complaint when that complaint is supported by material that meets evidentiary standards. A complaint, to be actioned, must be in writing, must clearly identify the complainant, and clearly support the claims through documentation, sworn third party or unmodified communications (basic standards of evidence). Anonymous complaints without this level of substantiation will be refused. An accused has the right to face his or her accuser.
- A response as to whether or not the Association requires additional information to proceed will be received by the complainant (or will be able to shown to have been sent to the complainant’s attention) within 10 working days of the complaint receipt by the Association. A failure to meet this requirement shall not be held against the defendant and shall be rectified at the earliest opportunity.
- It must be clear that complaints must be submitted within a reasonable timeframe of the transgression. For the Association to consider a complaint, it must be received not later than 90 days from the date of the alleged transgression unless the complainant can show (with third party supportable documentation) that he or she was unable to submit the complaint but had made reasonable efforts to bring it to the attention of the Association.
FACT FINDING AND INVESTIGATIONS
- The initial phase is a basic fact finding exercise. All parties shall be asked to present their views, present documentation and state their points of view. This phase is intended to gather credible information (facts) and is not accusatory in nature, only if sufficient information exists that an administrative investigation is warranted.
- Should a decision that an investigation is warranted be arrived at, then the Association will initiate an administrative investigation that takes into account the principles of natural justice (innocent until shown guilty), objectivity, confidentiality, and respect for all parties.
- An investigation will proceed at the most expedient pace with respect to the severity of the claim and the impact these kinds of activities have on those required to participate in it. It is anticipated that an investigation can be completed within 60 calendar days in most circumstances and with the findings being presented.It must be understood by all parties that this administrative investigation does not have the authority to compel an individual to participate (i.e. it does not have the power to subpoena, etc) but does take into account the willingness of the individual to participate honestly and openly.
- Should it be found that criminal activity is suspected, the Association reserves the right to cease its investigation immediately and turn over all relevant documentation to the appropriate law enforcement bodies. This is a requirement in most jurisdictions. At this point, the investigation will be in the hands of that law enforcement body and the Association will step aside in order to not interfere with or prejudice the investigation.
- Should it be found that there are adequate grounds for civil proceedings in the Courts, the Association will make one attempt to assist the parties in mediation and, should that attempt fail, will then advise the parties that the dispute must be handled in the civil court (or equivalent) system if they cannot arrive at an agreement or resolution. This is appropriate within the context of civil law.
- Should it be found that there are serious breaches of the Code of Practice, the offending member will be required to face suspension from the Association and the use of its name, until he or she can demonstrate, through adhering to the ethics of the association clearly for a period of time, that such behaviour is unlikely in the future.
CRIMINAL / CIVIL / SANCTION
- In matters that result in a criminal conviction against a Member, then membership will be suspended and may be terminated permanently. This will depend upon the severity of the offence, the attitude towards the offence and an opinion with respect to whether or not the individual is likely to reoffend. It is highly unlikely that membership can be maintained in these cases, although it must be assessed impartially on a case-by-case basis.
- In matters that apply to the civil court, the member (if found at fault) may be suspended until such time as the issue is confirmed as being resolved by the two parties. The nature of the suspension will be dependent upon the severity of the civil issue, the member’s attitude towards the issue and the potential that it may reoccur.
- In cases where a breach of trust, fraud or other similar betrayal of trust is involved, the individual may be required to step down from positions of trust within the Association until the issue is resolved.
- Where other breaches of the Code of Practice are identified, the member may face a range of sanctions. In this context, the sanction shall be considered appropriate to the nature of the breach.
- The intent of the Sanctioning process is to protect the name of the Association and to arrive at an appropriate and agreeable resolution to the issue. The sanctions applied to a Member shall be appropriate, fair and take into account the potential injury caused to third parties.
- These sanctions are in addition to any criminal or civil penalties brought to bear on the member and do not constitute punishment in the sense that would affect any legal proceedings.
- The sanction applied shall be at the lowest level agreeable to the complainant and not higher than the standards set by the Association. These standards are the following. These assume that there is no remedy that is required to be taken through civil or criminal courts:
- Restitution and settlement of issues within a timeframe agreed upon by both parties and taking into account the ability to meet the requirements
- Restitution, settlement of issues, and suspension of membership of not more than 30 days – first and minor occurrence
- Restitution, settlement of issues, and suspension of membership of not more than 60 days – second or moderate occurrences
- Restitution, settlement of issues, and suspension of membership of not more than 6 months – third or moderately serious occurrences
- Restitution, settlement of issues, and expulsion from the Association – for serious occurrences.
ACCESS WHEN ON SUSPENSION
- Any membership fees paid by a member being sanctioned shall not be refunded.
- Any access to electronic tools (such as the web) shall be restricted to the lowest level possible (Level 0)
- The individual must agree not to use any marks or logos of the Association during the period of suspension.
- Should the member refuse to comply with this, the Association reserves the right to refute the claim and it is agreed by all parties that the Association is held blameless and harmless for identifying the serial number of the certificate (membership number) as being suspended or invalidated.
The disciplinary process within a community of willing professionals is something that is anticipated to be used rarely. It marks the Association’s commitment to its own credibility and, by extension, the credibility of the Members that abide by its requirements and agreed-to conditions.
It is considered to be a step before the parties involved must take more formal and legal actions. It does not intend to be an alternative to legitimate (legal) enforcement methods. Nor will it tolerate the use of the process to make vexatious or false allegations against a member. Where such an attempt is discovered by the Association, it must be clear that the Association will stand by its aggrieved Member in any civil or appropriate proceedings taken against the complainant.
Complaints are to be directed, in writing, to the president of the Association.