PUBLIC RELATIONS INSTITUTE
OF NEW ZEALAND

Te Pūtahi Whakakakau Tūmatanui o Aotearoa

PRINZ Code of Ethics Complaints Process

  1. Members agree to accept the PRINZ Code of Ethics and to conduct their activities in accordance with it.
  2. As a condition of membership, members agree:
    a. to accept the PRINZ Disputes procedure for resolving complaints;
    b. not to take legal action against PRINZ or PRINZ members involved in resolving a complaint against them until a finding is issued;
    c. not to comment to the media from the time a complaint is laid until a finding is issued;
  3. Complainants are required to sign an undertaking at the time of lodging a complaint that they will
    a. give up any legal rights in respect of the situation complained of; and
    b. not make any statement to the media until a finding is issued. (If this undertaking is broken any hearing of a complaint may be discontinued).

Any complaints of breaches of the PRINZ Code of Ethics brought to the attention of PRINZ will be assessed by the PRINZ Ethics Committee;

The chair of the committee is a respected individual who is not a PRINZ member. The other two members of the committee will be experienced PRINZ members drawn from the College of Fellows who have no conflicting interest in the complaint.

Initial Determination
When a complaint is received, the committee first decides whether it is genuine, relevant and appropriate. If not it will be dismissed. The committee will respond to the complainant to explain the next steps or the reason the complaint has been dismissed. The committee’s decision is final.

Mediation Conference
If the committee decides the complaint should be taken further, the committee may first suggest mediation between the parties, overseen by a competent mediator, to see if the issue can be resolved without need for the committee to be further involved.

Written Submissions
If mediation does not resolve the issue, or there is no agreement to this, the PRINZ member and complainant to have 30 days to provide written submissions. The committee is able to seek supplementary written information from either party, and each party is able to provide written comment on the other party’s material.

Hearing
A hearing will be held if either side requests it, within 30 days of both written submissions being received, or if the committee decides it is necessary. Either side can be represented at the hearing by legal counsel. The committee’s finding may not be appealed.

Findings
Findings will be issued as an example of whether certain activities are in accordance with PRINZ Code of Ethics or not. Emphasis will not be on finding members guilty or innocent, or on punishment. The committee will have the power to recommend a fine or expulsion, but only in extreme cases. In all cases the committee will arrive at a finding whether the allegations can be proved or not in order to build up a body of ethics knowledge. For example. “We find that if (certain actions) had been carried out, they would not have been in accordance with the PRINZ Code of Ethics. However, the PRINZ Ethics Committee was given no evidence that PRINZ members carried out these actions or recommended them. This finding is issued only to help clarify the intention of the Code of Ethics”. The chair of the PRINZ Ethics Committee will issue a statement of its finding to the complainant, to the PRINZ member(s) involved, to PRINZ members generally and if appropriate, to the news media.

Objectives

  1. The ethics complaints process must meet and follow these objectives and processes.
    a. provide all parties with access to an open and responsive complaints process;
    b. manage complaints in a consistent, systematic and responsive manner;
    c. identify trends and implement policies to aimed at eliminating causes of complaints;
    d. provide a basis for the ongoing review and analysis of the complaint;
    e. management system, resolution of complaints, and process improvements made; and
    f. reduce the likelihood of complaints developing into ongoing disputes.

Right to Know and Respond

  1. Every member who has a complaint made against them has the right to:
    a. be fully informed of the nature of the complaint,
    b. respond to the complaint in a reasonable time frame,
    c. be represented, and
    d. be provided in writing with all decisions and the reasons for them.

Lack of Bias

  1. Every person involved in the process leading to a decision will be seen to be independent and impartial. Every investigator will be required to sign a declaration to this effect.
  2. An investigator will not:
    a. favour a particular position, nor appear to favour a particular position;
    b. have a material connection with either the Complainant or the Respondent;
    c. have a personal interest in the outcome; and
    d. be appointed if they have a material conflict of interest.
  3. An Ethics Committee member is required to withdraw if during the course of their investigation they become aware of a conflict of interest.
  4. The Ethics Committee members role is to decide upon a course of action only after having considered all of the relevant facts. Committee members should not begin the decision process with pre-determined opinions on the matter in question.
  5. It is important that both the Complainant and the Respondent are:
    a. able to provide their own account of the circumstances of the matter;
    b. able to challenge the other party’s account; and
    c. notified of the nature and scope of the decision being made.

Reasons for Decisions

  1. Both the Complainant and the Respondent are provided with:
    a. the decision and reasons for this outcome;
    b. the grounds upon which the decision has been made.

Confidentiality

  1. For the public to have confidence in the processes of the Ethics Complaints Process, it is essential that the information that comes to the Ethics Committee, members of the Board, PRINZ employees and any other person it authorises to work on its behalf is kept confidential to the parties involved.

Complaints

  1. The Chief Executive will hold a register of enquiries and complaints and will report to the Board on the nature and volume of enquiries handled.
  2. Once a written complaint is received, every step in the decision-making process and every person making decisions will be bound by the rules of natural justice.
  3. Complaints must be lodged within 12 months of any alleged incident.
  4. The PRINZ Ethics Committee may:
    a. appoint a person to make further inquiries (other than the Chief Executive);
    b. request the business or person complained about to provide the Board, within a specified period of at least 20 working days, any documents, items or information that is relevant to the investigation;
    c. copy documents provided as part of the complaint investigation;
    d. receive any other relevant evidence; and
    e. engage legal counsel for advice on matters of law, procedure and evidence.