Appeal Panel procedure
HISTORIC DOCUMENT. This procedure was replaced by the Advisory Panel Procedure on 3rd June 2022.
1. The Panel will consider:
- a. Appeals from a group's owners, moderators or volunteers whose group has been refused affiliation or dismissed from affiliation with Freegle.
- b. Appeals from Freegle Volunteers or Members or ex-Freegle Volunteers or Members who wish to appeal a decision or practice of Freegle.
- c. Appeals from elected role holders who wish to appeal a decision or practice of their fellow elected role team members
2. To request the Panel to meet, an email should be sent to Ombudsman@ilovefreegle.org giving a brief outline of the reasons for an appeal. The Panel will be convened where mediation is inappropriate or has failed, or at the request of the Ombudsman.
3. A separate Panel will be convened for each appeal case.
4. When an appeal is requested, the person/team/group who has made a disputed decision should be informed as soon as possible, even if the appeal doesn't go ahead.
B. Panel Membership
1. Freegle Volunteers or Members willing to be part of a Panel should be nominated to the Ombudsman. A mix of experienced and less experienced Volunteers are encouraged to be included in the pool so there is a fair balance of perspective available.
2. Anyone nominated for the panel pool cannot nominate the person who nominated them. All applicants should have different proposers and seconders, or if two applicants have the same proposer then they must have different seconders.
3. The Ombudsman will ensure that the pool of panelists is sufficient to deal with requests for the Panel to convene by actively recruiting if necessary. The Ombudsman may take appropriate action to encourage Volunteers to participate including (but not limited to) direct invitations and emails to group owner addresses. (Invitation March 2015 )
4. The Panellist pool list will be kept on a list on Central by the Ombudsman.
5. Panellists will be randomly selected by the Ombudsman from the Panellist pool list in Central files.
6. The Panel will comprise Freegle Volunteers or Members randomly selected by the Ombudsman who have no detailed knowledge of the particular incident(s) and circumstances relating to the decisions and/or actions leading to the reason for appeal or mediation. The Ombudsman has discretion to exclude potential panellists from the selection who have failed to complete the work of a previous convened panel.
7. The selection should use a random sequence list generation, enabling the first 3 to 5 to be asked to serve, but if one or more declines or leaves, the next person/people on the list will be asked to serve.
8. There will be 3 to 5 panellists, subject to the Ombudsman’s discretion.
9. No elected role holder can be on a Panel.
10. Panellists are required to declare any conflict of interests in the case under discussion and withdraw themselves from the process. This is where individuals have worked closely with or had contact with each other and whether that would be likely to influence their judgement. This is the ultimate decision of the Ombudsman, but criteria for noting possible conflict of interest include:
- a. Indications that a potential panellist might have strong views about other people involved in the panel or one or more of the parties involved.
- b. Indications that a potential panellist might have strong views about the issue being considered,
- c. If panel pool members work closely together in other capacities, to the extent that it is felt they would not bring independent views to the panel.
- d. If a potential panellist and one of the parties involved were moderators on the same group.
11. Panellists’ names will be kept confidential, but will be included in the end report. If anyone has a concern that one or more of the panel pool might be unsuitable for a particular panel, they can email the Ombudsman to flag that up confidentially. When an appeal is convened, the Ombudsman will publish the current panel pool to Central to provide an opportunity for this.
C. Panel Members
1. Panellists must inform the Ombudsman of any conflicts of interest. Failure to do so may disqualify them from sitting on the panel.
2. Panellists and the Ombudsman must normally access their e-mails at least once a day.
3. Panellists must give a primary email address, plus at least two other preferred contact methods to the Ombudsman eg: home number, mobile number, alternative email address etc.
4. Panellists are responsible for keeping the Ombudsman informed if they are unable to participate for a period of more than 48 hours.
5. Panellists must be available for the duration of the panel, which will be stated, with any possible extensions, before the panel is selected. Obviously there are situations that cannot be avoided however, communication is the key.
6. All information flagged as confidential must stay confidential.
7. Panellists will have a seven day grace period in which time they can state that they no longer wish to sit on the panel.
8. If a panellist is not contactable for three days without prior agreement other forms of communication will be used to contact them. If a total of seven days passes with no response they will be removed from the panel. At their discretion, the Ombudsman may recruit replacement panellists to ensure the Panel remains quorate.
9. Panel members are expected to be part of the pool of potential panelists for a period of 12 months and then will be asked if they wish to continue.
D. Panel Procedure
1. The Ombudsman will arrange for the Panel to start work as soon as practicable after a request has been received. A separate closed Yahoo or similar forum will be set up to deal with each case.
2. Discussions will be primarily conducted on the forum/group, although limited access googledocs can be used to facilitate the processing of documentation. Information received should be placed in the files of the group/forum for reference as appropriate.
3. The Ombudsman will act as Chairman of the Panel, but will not have a vote.
4. The Ombudsman will contact the appellant and/or individual(s) who have been involved in the issues surrounding the reasons for mediation or appeal, informing them of the process.
5. The Ombudsman will request all relevant information relating to an appeal to be submitted within a mutually agreed timeframe.
6. All communications must go via the Ombudsman; no panellist should ask or be asked for information. All messages to and from the Ombudsman should be acknowledged on receipt, whether they are by email, telephone, text or post.
7. Details that people wish to be kept confidential should be marked as such. Information received as evidence will be shared with the other parties concerned unless there is an explicit request from the person writing that it should only be available to the panel. Confidentiality restrictions complicate the job of the panel and should only be used where absolutely necessary.
8. Information supplied can be anonymised if felt appropriate, with the exception of the names of the relevant parties.
9. Panellists will not discuss the ongoing specific proceedings outside of the Panel. Although the Ombudsman can ask for general clarifications from relevant agencies or individuals; others involved are strongly recommended not to discuss relevant issues on any open forum whilst the appeal is taking place.
10. The Ombudsman may ask any relevant Working Group or the Board for clarification or assistance, as long as this does not reveal, either explicitly or by clear implication, information which has been received in confidence.
11. When discussing a point, putting something to a vote, etc within the Panel, there should be a time frame for reply or response. If valid comments are received after this they will be taken into consideration if possible. However, proceedings will not be delayed unless the Panel is inquorate.
12. The use of the Yahoo or similar poll facility should be considered for progressing the work of the Panel within the stated timetable.
13. In making a decision, the Panel will be open and fair, ensuring that all interests are considered and that any decision balances speed of action alongside thoroughness.
14. If affected or involved parties choose not to take part in Appeal proceedings the Appeal will continue, but with the non-participation noted as appropriate.
15. The decision of the Panel will be made by vote by a simple majority of the number of panellists who were appointed at the commencement of the Panel proceedings. (ie. If there was originally a Panel of 5, 3 panellists will need to vote in agreement to make a decision, or with originally 3, 2 will need to vote in agreement.)
16. When a decision is reached on an appeal, the Ombudsman will write to the people involved in the case, giving a justification for the decision and suggesting a resolution, if appropriate
17. The final decision of the Panel will be presented to the Board for ratification. The Panel can also make non-binding recommendations about general policy, to then be discussed on the appropriate Working Group or to the Board. Decisions must be supported by a justification.
18. The Yahoo or forum group archives should include all messages posted and files logged as a record of the complete process and decisions made. This is to be treated as strictly confidential and routine access to the group records will only be allowed to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman may, in exceptional circumstances and at their discretion, make selected extracts available for inspection.
19. Central will be informed that the Panel has been convened, although details of the proceedings will remain confidential to the Panel.
20. If all parties agree, a summary of the proceedings with a summary of the justification may be published on Central by the Ombudsman.
An appellant has up to 4 weeks to request an appeal and present supporting information; the total appeals process to take no more than 10 weeks from date of decision being appealed against. The Ombudsman will use their discretion throughout the Panel proceedings, within the procedures outlined in this document, to ensure that business is conducted within the timescales. If there are extenuating circumstances, the Ombudsman shall have discretion to extend this period for the minimum time necessary in their opinion.
- Amendments to this document - refer to Document Approval Policy
- Previous Freegle UK documents: Appeals Panel Procedure and Appeals Panel