Th is article develops a better theoretical understanding of the linkage between the processes and outcomes associated with government-organized public participation, including its potential to empower citizens in guiding administrative decisions. Special focus is given to those factors that shape the development and maintenance of the citizen-administrator relationship. To this end, the research examines the work of federally mandated citizen review panels and their interactions with state child protection agency administrators. Based on 52 in-depth interviews conducted with citizens and administrators in three U.S. states, a grounded theory approach is employed to derive a series of testable theoretical propositions. Th e insights gained are of importance not only to public administration scholars but also to citizens and administrators who engage one another through formally organized channels of participation.