How to Contact the Ombudsman’s Office
- Telephone: 301-796-3095
- E-mail address: CTPOmbudsman@fda.hhs.gov
Who is CTP’s Ombudsman?
Ella Yeargin is the Ombudsman for the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP). Her tenure at CTP includes work as a regulatory counsel in CTP’s Office of Compliance, as well as two years in CTP’s Ombudsman’s Office (including eight months as acting Ombudsman) working with former CTP Ombudsmen Les Weinstein and Jake Romanell. Ms. Yeargin has also worked in CTP’s Freedom of Information (FOIA) Office where she began her federal career as a Presidential Management Fellow.
What does the CTP Ombudsman do?
CTP established its Ombudsman’s Office in 2010. The Ombudsman’s Office responds to a range of inquiries, including complaints from various stakeholders including the public, and facilitates the resolution of disputes between CTP and outside parties. The office is an advocate for fairness and strives to maintain impartiality and neutrality while providing this service.
Among other responsibilities, the CTP Ombudsman’s Office:
- responds to inquiries and/or complaints from the tobacco industry, law firms or consultants representing industry, advocacy groups, public and private research institutions, health care providers, and consumers;
- facilitates the resolution of disputes between CTP and outside parties;
- provides general information on the regulatory process; and
- helps to facilitate dialogue between stakeholders and CTP staff.
The Ombudsman’s Office can provide an empathetic ear for issues and concerns even if they do not rise to the level of a complaint or dispute.
Based on the nature of the contacts received, the Ombudsman’s Office advises CTP leaders about ways to assure that CTP’s procedures, policies, and decisions are of the highest quality and are fair and equitable. The Ombudsman can also be called upon to help resolve internal scientific disputes in regulatory decision-making between CTP managers and staff.
Relation to FDA Office of the Ombudsman
The function of the CTP Ombudsman parallels that of the FDA Office of the Ombudsman, located in the Office of the FDA Commissioner, but provides an avenue for resolving issues involving CTP programs at a level closer to the source. Because the FDA Office of the Ombudsman has agency-wide jurisdiction, it is appropriate to contact that office when an issue involves more than one FDA Center, when an effort to resolve a dispute or an appeal of a decision was not successful at the Center level, or at any time when involvement by someone outside CTP might be useful.
When to Contact the CTP Ombudsman
Complaints and Disputes: The Ombudsman’s Office does its best to respond in a timely and effective manner. Although anyone may contact the office at any time, people should, if possible, first try to resolve any complaint or dispute within the responsible CTP Office. The Ombudsman does not get involved in matters that are in active litigation.
General Comments and Suggestions
The Ombudsman is interested in hearing about the effectiveness of CTP’s programs and about problems that may be getting in the way of implementation of the Center’s regulatory responsibilities. We welcome such input because it helps CTP to continually assess and improve upon its work.
Parties who contact the Ombudsman’s Office may prefer to keep their identity, name, company name, or even the nature of their complaint confidential. Generally, we can keep this information confidential if requested. Naturally, a pledge of confidentiality may preclude the Ombudsman from facilitating a resolution to a specific problem. If so, we will explain this conflict and will not proceed to look into a matter without permission to share the previously confidential information. There are a few areas, however, in which confidentiality cannot be preserved, such as allegations of criminal activity, which must be reported to the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations. Even in these situations, though, the identity of a confidential source may be protected from disclosure to the public. FDA has a very strict non-retaliation policy that protects anyone who complains about the Agency or any of its employees. The CTP Ombudsman follows a code of ethics and operating principles drawn from those established by the Coalition of Federal Ombudsmen, the United States Ombudsman Association, and the International Ombudsman Association. These include standards for ensuring confidentiality, impartiality, and informality.