OIG Releases Audit of Administrative Hearings

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed an audit evaluating the timeliness of Department of Administrative Hearings’ (DOAH) case completion.

OIG examined the ratio of closed to opened cases (clearance rate) and the number of days it took to close a case (time to disposition) in a given reporting period. The audit found that DOAH’s overall clearance rate from 2012 through 2014 was high, at 99.3%, meaning that DOAH opened only slightly more cases than it closed. However, DOAH experienced somewhat larger backlogs in a few case types. For example, some building code violations (Building Code Target cases) had lower clearance rates than other case types, 88.8%, signaling a mounting backlog. For these cases, addressing the backlog is particularly important because the violations at issue may pose safety threats to workers and the public. OIG also found that the time to disposition in some types of cases differed substantially between quarters. For example, the average time to close relatively minor building code violations (Building Code Standard cases) ranged from 14 days to 866 days. Vehicle impoundment cases ranged from a quarterly average of 4 days to 25 days.

Because DOAH did not track clearance rate and time to disposition, it was unaware of the backlogs or periodic increases in the lengths of some cases highlighted by OIG.

“Our audit identified an opportunity for DOAH to improve on its generally efficient performance through the institution of clearance rate tracking,” Inspector General Ferguson stated, “which constitutes a simple, data-driven early warning technique for DOAH to identify and proactively address growing backlogs in particular areas before they have a significant adverse impact to this important public service.”

In response to OIG’s findings, DOAH committed to adopting a 100% clearance rate goal as well as time to disposition standards for each case type. The Department stated that it would monitor its performance through quarterly reporting and work within its own operations and with ticketing departments to take appropriate corrective actions. In particular, DOAH reports that it has already met with the Department of Buildings concerning procedural changes for cases over a year old.

The full report and the City’s response to the findings can be found online at OIG’s website: http://bit.ly/DOAHTM

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