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This 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. The 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.