It’s okay for the Government to be late — but not you!

19 07 2010

The American essayist Og Mandino is credited with saying the following about being late: “There is an immeasurable distance between late and too late.” A recent administrative law case involving a Licensed Professional Counselor illustrates that perfectly.

The counselor was licensed for 19 years, dutifully renewing her license each year. By law, the licensing board was required to send her a notice 30 days before her license was to expire each year.

Oops!

In 2002, the Board failed to send the renewal notice. As a result, the counselor did not renew her license and her license expired, unbeknownst to her. In 2006, she finally learned that her license had expired. At that time she applied to renew it. But the licensing board refused to renew it because it had been expired for more than one year!

Surely the courts will straighten this out – right?

The counselor sued the licensing board and argued that she should not be penalized for allowing her license to go unrenewed for a year because the board failed to send her a notice of renewal as it was required to do. Her case has been winding its way through the courts but now appears to be over. The result? She loses. In May, the Austin court of appeals ruled in favor of the board. It said that the law required the counselor to renew each year, and that requirement applied whether or not the board sent a reminder notice as it was required to do.

Moral of the story

We all have so much going on in our lives that we tend to rely on others to tell us when things are due. We rely on the dentist to tell us when it is time for a cleaning, and we rely on the government to tell us when it is time to new our various licenses and registrations. But this case shows that you must treat your professional license differently. Be vigilant about the deadline to renew your license and do not rely on your licensing agency to remind you.





Sitting down with the 900-pound gorilla

18 06 2010

The Informal Settlement Conference

If you are investigated by a state agency for an alleged violation of the regulations governing your profession, you probably will be invited to attend an Informal Settlement Conference. Plan to attend it, and prepare for it as though your professional life depended on it. Because it just might. The conference may be your last, best chance to put to bed any unfounded allegations.

How it works: The specific procedure for conferences varies from one agency to another. And the conferences at some agencies are more informal than at others. (For example, Informal Settlement Conferences at the Texas Medical Board are not informal by any stretch of the imagination.) But they all follow the same general script – typically the agency will have an investigator or prosecutor who will explain the allegations against you and describe the evidence to support them. The agency will then ask what you have to say for yourself. So the purpose of the conference is for the agency to size you up and hear your side of the story before it lowers the boom and imposes discipline against you.

It’s not going to be easy: Keep in mind that prior to the conference, the agency may have heard only bad things about you. For example, if the agency began its investigation of you in response to a complaint from a member of the public, the complainant likely painted a very unflattering picture. Probably exaggerated. Maybe even lied. So, to set the record straight, you may have your work cut out for you.

Know your case: Before you walk in that conference room door, you’ll want to know the facts of your case like the back of you hand. You’ll also want to understand the applicable law. Only then will you be equipped to show the agency that the complaint is unfounded and should be dismissed and that you should be allowed to return to the work that you were trained to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read the rest of this entry »