Responding to an Inquiry and Investigation
If you received an inquiry letter from the Board, this generally means the following has occurred: a complaint and evidence have been submitted to the Board and reviewed by staff. An initial letter has been sent to you noting the complaint and the specific ethical standard brought into question and requesting a response to the allegations. An investigator from the Board may be assigned to gather additional information and prepare a summary report for the Board Review Committee.
In addition, the Board staff may initiate staff-opened cases where the staff has received information from various sources. Upon receipt of the information, the staff will review the information and determine whether a case should be opened. In this case, you may receive a letter summarizing the case and requesting a response. You are required to fully cooperate with the Board in connection with any inquiry the Board makes.
In drafting a response to any inquiry, 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 Social Work 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 Board may: investigate the matter further; close the case without taking further action; offer a proposed consent order to dispose of the case; hold an informal conference, if requested; or commence a formal hearing by serving a Notice of Charges on the certificate holder or licensee, if there is credible evidence to suggest that a significant violation may have occurred or the matter cannot be resolved.
The certificate holder or licensee may be offered a resolution of the case, which is followed by a proposed consent order. Typically, this process is done via the mail, with the Board and the Social Worker/licensee, through his or her legal counsel, exchanging counter-proposals. At any time in that process, either party may request an informal conference and the Board Review Committee may grant or deny the request. If the request is approved, two members of the Board and the Social Worker/licensee meet in-person to consider the possibility of disposing of the dispute without a formal hearing. The Social Worker/licensee may be represented by counsel at that conference. All matters contained in a potential consent order must be agreed to by the Board Review Committee and the Social Worker/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, and also represent them in informal conferences. The Board generally 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.