Since February of 2017, Paul J. Caffera has served the University of Mississippi community as the University Ombuds in an exemplary manner, demonstrating the independence, confidentiality, and neutrality called for by the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics of the International Ombudsman Association. Mr. Caffera has been a force for helping the University of Mississippi live its Creed.
On November 19, 2020, Mr. Caffera, filed a Complaint in the Chancery Court of Lafayette County, Mississippi, for the purpose of protecting the confidentiality and independence of the Ombuds Office, and in particular to protect the anonymity of University employees and graduate students who have sought his assistance as Ombuds. The Charter Agreement expressly prohibits Mr. Caffera from disclosing the identity of persons using the Office of Ombuds, as well as any information they provide, except to prevent imminent harm. Further, the Charter Agreement prohibits the Ombuds from testifying or providing records in any “dispute resolution process, grievance process, or investigation” by the University. The actions taken against Mr. Caffera have every appearance of retaliation and violate the very purpose of an Ombuds office.
Through his lawsuit, Mr. Caffera prevented an intrusion into faculty email correspondence through injunctive relief. Moreover, he secured for us all a new and firm commitment from the Chancellor to the confidentiality of the Ombuds office.
Although the Office of the Ombudsperson Charter agreement stipulates that “In accordance with the IOA’s Best Practices, the Office of the Ombudsperson shall have access to independent legal counsel when necessary in order to fulfill the functions of the position,” in reality, the University has refused to provide legal counsel, leaving Mr. Caffera to secure his own legal counsel since October 2020.
Legal proceedings are now concluded, leaving Mr. Caffera with sizable outstanding legal fees incurred in the defense of the office and in defense of UM employees. This fund is intended to help alleviate this financial burden Mr. Caffera has voluntarily incurred.