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Schedule of Procedures for Code Violations (older)

Note: AAPOR's Executive Council approved revised procedures in May 2009. For any alleged Code violations after May 2009, refer to the revised procedures.

Any individual, whether an AAPOR member or not, may submit a written complaint concerning a possible violation of the AAPOR Code of Professional Ethics and Practices to the Standards Chair. 1a. Complaints must be made in writing on an AAPOR Standards Complaint Form and must include (i) a statement describing the alleged action or violation, (ii) the section of the Code alleged to be violated, (iii) the date or dates when the alleged violation occurred, (iv) the name(s) of the individual(s), firm(s) or organization(s) alleged to be in violation, and (v) the original signature of the complainant along with his or her contact information, including telephone number, postal address, and e-mail address.

1b. Any organization, firm, individual, or group of individuals may be named in such a complaint, whether or not it or they are members of AAPOR.

1c. The written complaint shall be accompanied by all available relevant evidence.

1d. At the discretion of the Standards Chair, any duly appointed member of the Standards Committee may be given confidential access to a received complaint, unless that Standards Committee member, or his or her organization, is the source or subject of that complaint. If the Standards Chair and Associate Standards Chair are thereby excluded, the Council shall appoint a Chair pro tem for that particular complaint.

1e. The complaint form and all related materials prepared for Council, the Standards Committee, and the Evaluation Committee (if one is appointed as provided in section 4 below) will be kept confidential, and all Council, Standards Committee, and Evaluation Committee discussions related to the specifics of the complaint will be treated as privileged communication.

1f. The procedures hereafter described will apply to all such written complaints received by the Standards Chair.

Within forty-five (45) days of receipt of a complaint, the Standards Chair shall decide, withthe concurrence of the Associate Standards Chair or one other member of the Standards Committee, whether or not any official action is warranted. The Standards Chair may request assistance from the source or subject of the initial complaint, or use any other channels deemed helpful in recommending a course of action to Council.

2a. If no official action is to be recommended by the Standards Chair, he or she shall prepare a brief written report to Council, including the original complaint form and setting out the reason(s) why no action is indicated.

(1) If Council agrees with this opinion at its next regularly scheduled meeting, or after being polled by phone or e-mail, the source of the complaint shall be promptly notified as to the final disposition of the complaint.

(2) If Council does not agree with the Standards Chair's decision, Council may call for clarification or direct the initiation of a full complaint review and investigation, as specified in sections 2b, 2c, and 3 below.

2b. The Standards Chair may be directed by Council to seek additional information and clarification about the alleged Code violation. In pursuit of this objective, the Standards Chair may request assistance from the source or subject of the initial complaint, or use any other channels deemed helpful in recommending a course of action to Council. The Standards Chair shall report on any additional information within thirty days of such a directive from Council.

2c. The Standards Chair may recommend and a Council majority approve of (or independently direct) the initiation of a full complaint review and investigation. In determining this course of action, Council will consider all relevant information, including the severity of the alleged violation(s) and facts gathered by the Standards Chair, including (if elicited) the stance initially taken by the subject(s) of the complaint.

3. If Council, by a majority of those voting, votes for a complaint review and investigation, the organization, firm or individual(s) who are the subject of the complaint shall be notified by the Standards Chair in writing within fourteen (14) days of Council action. Such notification will fully stipulate the nature of the complaint and shall include relevant portions of the Code and a copy of this Schedule of Procedures.

4. The investigation will be conducted by an ad hoc committee (hereafter termed Evaluation Committee), appointed by the Standards Chair subject to the approval of the Council.

4a. The Evaluation Committee will consist of no fewer than three nor more than five AAPOR members, one of whom Council will name as Chair. Neither the Standards Chair nor any other Council members may serve on this committee.

4b. The identity of the members of the Evaluation Committee will be known only to Council and to each other.

4c. No member of AAPOR shall serve on an Evaluation Committee in a matter where he or she or his or her organization is the source or subject of a particular complaint, or where his or her service could otherwise represent a potential conflict of interest in relation to the source or subject.

5. Within twenty-one (21) days of appointment, the Chair of the Evaluation Committee will receive all pertinent materials on the case that are held by the Standards Committee, and the Standards Chair will, in writing, request the subject(s) of the complaint to provide any other materials deemed necessary by the Evaluation Committee, or materials and statements which the subject(s) deem necessary or relevant to a fair investigation.

5a. Copies of all such materials received, including the original complaint and the notification to the subject(s), will be sent to each member of the Evaluation Committee.

5b. Any member of the Evaluation Committee may request the Standards Chair to seek further information or clarification of existing information.

5c. In conducting its affairs, the use of electronic conferencing techniques (phone, e-mail) by the Evaluation Committee, as needed, will be funded by AAPOR.

5d. The Committee may elicit and consider any relevant evidence.

6. If the subject(s) of the complaint fails to respond to the notice provided under paragraph 3 or fails to forward all material requested under paragraph 5 or 5b within forty-five (45) days of the notice or request, the Evaluation Committee will proceed, using the evidence at hand. If, however, the subject(s) of the complaint formally requests of the Standards Chair an extension of time, the Standards Chair may grant an extension in writing, upon determination that the extension is reasonable and necessary to compile all requested materials.

7. Within thirty (30) days of receiving the requested materials (or following the 45-day waiting period), the Evaluation Committee will complete a complaint review and investigation, reach a determination about the complaint, and will submit a written report to the Standards Chair. The complaint review and investigation will seek to determine the precise nature of the conduct which is subject to criticism and whether there is any factual basis to support the alleged misconduct. The Evaluation Committee must determine whether the information obtained may reasonably be interpreted to constitute a violation of AAPOR's Code of Ethics and Practices, which reflects generally accepted professional practices. The committee's report will describe the steps taken in review of the complaint, include the determination and a specific recommendation for Council action, and will conclude with one or more motions.

7a. Council action to be recommended by the Evaluation Committee may consist of, but is not limited to, any of the following:

(1) If AAPOR members or firms with AAPOR members as principals are subjects of the complaint:

a. Public or private exoneration;

b. Public or private censure;

c. Suspension or termination of membership;

d. Termination of investigation, with no further action.

(2) If non-members or firms without AAPOR members as principals are subjects of the complaint:

a. Public or private exoneration;

b. Public or private censure;

c. Termination of investigation, with no further action.

7b. Before recommending any censure or altering of membership, the Committee should consider the following criteria:

(1) The degree of severity of the violation(s);

(2) The subject's history regarding other possible violations;

(3) The impact of the violation(s) on the public opinion and survey research profession;

(4) The impact of any proposed sanction(s) on the subject's ability to successfully participate in public opinion and survey research in the future.

7c. Notwithstanding other actions taken, the Council may direct that a case study be prepared and publicized for the benefit of AAPOR members and other constituencies, with due regard given to the need to maintain confidentiality of the subject(s), information sources, and methods of investigation.

8a. The Standards Chair will forward the Evaluation Committee's report to Council within fourteen (14) days of receipt, together with such views, in writing, as he or she may have. At its next regularly scheduled meeting thereafter:

(1) The Council (with at least two-thirds of its members voting) shall immediately move to accept, reject, or modify the report of the Evaluation Committee or of the Standards Chair.

a. If the Council's decision exonerates the subject of the complaint, the Standards Chair will promptly notify the subject(s) and no further Council action is required.

b. If the Council's decision does not exonerate the subject, the Standards Chair will send notice of the Council's decision to the subject by registered mail within fourteen (14) days. The Standards Chair's letter shall include written notification advising the subject (i) of the specific allegations and charges; (ii) that, within thirty (30) days of receipt he or she may request a hearing before the full Council; and (iii) that he or she will be given the right at said hearing to confront evidence and to refute all charges.

c. The Council may also decide to request modification to the report of the Evaluation Committee. If such a request is made by Council, the Evaluation Committee has thirty (30) days to respond to such request. The revised report is then resubmitted for consideration, following the steps outlined in 8.1.

(2) Within thirty (30) days of receipt of notice of Council's decision (section 8a[1]b), the subject of the complaint may request, in writing, a hearing before the full Council. Such a hearing shall be held at a time and place scheduled by the Council. The President shall control the procedure at the hearing, including presentation of testimony and submission of written materials, but shall not be bound by legal rules of evidence or procedures. Before the close of the hearing, the Council should consider the criteria in 7b above.

8b. Immediately following the close of the hearing - or, if no hearing is requested within the 30-day waiting period, at a regularly or specially convened meeting - the Council will make its decision (with at least two-thirds of its members voting), to accept, reject, or modify the judgment and recommendation of the Evaluation Committee or the Standards Chair.

8c. This decision will constitute the final action to be taken by the Council on behalf of AAPOR, except as allowed in section 7c. The subject of the complaint will be notified in writing of the Council's decision. The source of the complaint will also be notified of the Council's decision, except in a case where the Council decides on (1) private censure or (2) termination of investigation with no further action, in which instances the source will be notified only that Council has decided not to take any public action on the case. If the decision of the Council involves an action not listed in sections 7a.1-2, notification to the source of the complaint about that decision shall be as determined by Council in its sole discretion. These notices of the outcome will be issued in writing within fourteen (14) days by the President of AAPOR, who also will be responsible for implementing the terms of the decision.

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