Responding to an Inquiry and Investigation
If you received an inquiry letter from the Board, this generally means that a complaint and possibly evidence have been submitted to the Board, and the Ethics Committee has done an initial review. In other cases, the Board may initiate “staff-opened” cases where the staff has received information from various sources including renewals, government agencies, and the news media. Generally, the Board will send you an initial letter and request that you respond to the allegations. Depending on the facts of the case, an investigator for the Board may be assigned at some point in the process to gather additional information and prepare a summary report for the Ethics Committee, who makes recommendations to the Board on how to proceed.
In drafting a response, it is important for you to include all information and documentation necessary to fairly and fully respond to the allegations. However, it is equally important for you to include only the pertinent information and documentation. We help our clients make these judgments and determinations from an objective standpoint and with experience in defending LPC Board matters. We regularly assist clients with written responses and in dealing with the stress that typically comes with defending such matters.
After receiving the written response, the Ethics Committee may close the case without taking further action; investigate further; recommend an informal conference with the licensee; or send a Charge Letter commencing a formal hearing.
Prior to the Board commencing a formal public hearing, the Ethics Committee may determine it is appropriate to hold an informal conference. The LPC may agree to attend this informal conference and be represented by an attorney. At the conference, a Board member and the LPC meet to consider the possibility of disposing of the dispute without a hearing. One or more of the following dispositions may occur at or after an informal conference:
(1) Recommend to the Board dismissal with no action;
(2) Recommend to the Board resolution by consent; or
(3) Schedule a formal contested case hearing and issue a Charge Letter to the LPC.
At the informal conference, the licensee may be offered a resolution of the case, which is followed by a proposed consent order. All matters contained in the consent order must be agreed to by the Board member and the LPC or other licensee and then ultimately approved by the full Board.
We help our clients evaluate and determine whether they should accept a proposed consent order, including whether to negotiate the terms, or in some cases request reconsideration of the Ethics Committee’s decision. The Board has more flexibility regarding disciplinary actions in negotiating and entering into consent orders than it does after formal hearings. This flexibility is one reason we attempt whenever possible to reach a consent order and avoid a formal hearing for clients if a matter reaches this stage of the proceedings.