The Importance of Being Earnest

10 07 2010

Mahatma Gandhi is credited with saying “Truth never damages a cause that is just.” No where is that more evident than in applications for jobs and professional licenses.

A recent example

Consider, for example, the school teacher whose disciplinary case was heard last month at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). The teacher was accused of failing to maintain appropriate boundaries and/or having inappropriate physical contact with students on three separate occasions. He resigned his position in lieu of being fired and then he applied for a job at another school district. He allegedly failed to disclose to the new district that he was under investigation for his actions at the previous one.

The judge’s ruling

At the conclusion of the SOAH hearing, the Administrative Law Judge found that the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) had not proven that the teacher failed to maintain appropriate boundaries or had inappropriate physical contact with any of the students on any of the three occasions. Therefore, the judge concluded that SBEC could not discipline the teacher for those incidents.

The kicker

But there’s more to the story. The judge also found that the teacher had misled the new district when he failed to disclose that he was under investigation for those incidents. And the judge concluded that the SBEC could discipline the teacher for that dishonesty.

The moral is this. When applying for a job or professional license, always tell the truth. Always.


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.










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