Spectrum of Administrative Actions
The Board of Psychology (BOP) recognizes a spectrum of actions that are available when dealing with consumer complaints against licensed psychologists. Such actions may be categorized in terms of whether they represent "disciplinary" or "non-disciplinary" procedures, and whether they are actions that are to be made available to the public or actions that are kept confidential ("non-public"). The following is a summary of the spectrum of actions available to the BOP along with their descriptions and the conditions under which they might be applied in the administrative process.
Non-disciplinary Administrative Options
- 1. Case closed - no action: These complaints may involve non-jurisdictional issues or they may be complaints where it has been determined through the gathering of additional information (either informally through written or telephonic requests or formally through field investigations) that the allegations in the complaint present no violations of law. It may be that there is insufficient evidence to prove a violation in an administrative hearing. Such cases are closed without administrative action and remain confidential from the general public.
- 2. Educational Letter: Complaints resulting from minor infractions by the licensee, that involve no consumer harm, can be resolved by a letter of warning. Such a letter outlines the allegations, informs of the law, and warns the licensee that if the situation is true and repeated, formal action could result. An example of the use of such a letter would be in the case of a complaint involving an advertisement in which the licensee does not include his or her license number. The intent of such a letter is to educate the licensee of the requirements of the law so as to avoid continued violations and possible disciplinary action. These letters are not considered to be disciplinary and remain confidential from the general public.
- 3. Educational Review: This remedy is utilized after formal investigation and after expert review of the case. Occasionally, an investigation may uncover possible violations of law related to a consumer complaint and an expert case reviewer may confirm that departures from the standard of care may have occurred. Due to evidentiary problems or other deficiencies found during the course of the investigation, however, it may not be an option to refer the case to the Office of the Attorney General for formal administrative action. Similarly, in cases where expert case reviewers do not find clear departures from the standard of care but they do express serious concerns about certain aspects of the cases and the way that licensees handled situations, referral to the Attorney General is not an option. In such cases, the licensee is invited to participate in an educational review. Such educational reviews are strictly voluntary and present an opportunity for the appropriate parties (licensee, investigator, expert, BOP staff) to discuss face-to-face the issues of concern in an educational forum. Educational reviews are completely confidential and remain confidential from the general public.
- 4. Citation and Fine: Citation and fine was first enacted on June 1, 1996 and is a tool which is used for various less egregious violations such as false advertising or misrepresentation. In cases where the statute of limitations prevents criminal prosecution for unlicensed practice, citation and fine also may be used along with telephone disconnect if the unlicensed person fails to pay the fine. Fines range from $100 to $2,500 per violation depending on the number of violations, the severity of those violations and the number of similar violations in prior cases. Orders of Abatement are included in all citation and fine cases and specifically require the cessation of certain activities or behaviors. An Order of Abatement may be used to follow a warning letter if the individual fails to heed the warning. Citations and fines are public information but are not considered to be disciplinary actions.
Disciplinary Administrative Options
- 1. Letter of reproval: The letter of reproval is an option that is negotiated between the BOP, the licensee and his/her counsel. Such a letter is an option in settlement of an Accusation (an Accusation is a document listing the formal administrative charges). Typically, the letter of reproval is a viable option if the violations alleged are relatively minor and no patient harm occurred. The letter is written by the BOP President to the licensee and includes a summary of the allegations. It acknowledges the impropriety of the acts summarized, can include mandated coursework that the licensee must take, cost recovery to the BOP for investigation and essentially may include any other term or condition listed in the Board's Disciplinary Guidelines. The letter of reproval is considered a disciplinary action and, as such, is public information and is provided to consumers upon request.
- 2. Probation: A licensee is placed on probation subsequent to the filing of an Accusation (formal statement of charges). A decision to place a licensee on probation could come about either as a result of a stipulated settlement or as ordered by an Administrative Law Judge subsequent to an administrative hearing. The optional and standard terms and conditions of probation are outlined in detail in the Board's Disciplinary Guidelines. To be placed on probation, the license always is revoked; however, the revocation is stayed and the period of probation and terms and conditions are specified in the probation order. In the event the licensee does not comply with the terms and conditions of probation, the probation and therefore the license can be revoked. Decisions ordering probation are considered disciplinary actions and, as such, are public information and provided to consumers upon request.
- 3. Suspension: As part of a disciplinary probation order, a period of suspension may be imposed prior to the effective date of the probation. The Board's Disciplinary Guidelines provide details of the conditions under which a suspension may be made a part of the probation order. During suspension, licensees may not practice psychology or refer to themselves as psychologists. As indicated above in "Probation," suspensions are considered disciplinary actions associated with probation orders and, as such, are public information and provided to consumers upon request.
- 4. Interim Suspension Order: In cases where the evidence indicates that the licensee is likely to engage in behaviors that present an immediate threat to the public health, safety and welfare, the BOP can, through the Office of the Attorney General, request a hearing to immediately suspend the practice of a licensee. If such an Interim Order of Suspension is granted by an Administrative Law Judge, the licensee must immediately cease practicing psychology. The Board must file an Accusation (formal statement of charges) within fifteen days of the issuance of the Interim Suspension Order, and an administrative hearing must be held within thirty days. Interim Suspension Orders are disciplinary actions and, as such, are public information and provided to consumers upon request.
- 5. Surrender of License: Rather than taking a case through the administrative hearing process, a licensee may elect to surrender his/her license. Surrender is accomplished through the stipulated agreement process and is only entertained by the Board subsequent to the filing of an Accusation (formal statement of charges). Stipulations to surrender license may or may not contain admissions to the allegations contained in the Accusation, but the licensee must stipulate that the allegations will be deemed true upon a future petition to reinstate the license. Those who surrender a license must wait three years before petitioning the BOP for reinstatement of licensure. Surrenders of license are considered disciplinary actions and, as such, are public information and provided to consumers upon request.
- 6. Revocation: This option is tantamount to loss of license. Revocation typically is the result of a decision proposed by an Administrative Law Judge after a full administrative hearing and adoption of such proposed decision by the BOP. However, revocation of a license also can take place prior to a hearing and subsequent to an Accusation (formal statement of charges) as a result of stipulated negotiations between the licensee, his/her counsel and the BOP. The Board's Disciplinary Guidelines illustrate those serious types of cases wherein revocation is the likely remedy. Those whose licenses are revoked must wait three years before petitioning the BOP for reinstatement of licensure. Revocations of license are considered disciplinary actions and, as such, are public information and provided to consumers upon request.