Avoiding Liability Bulletin – July 2005

… State regulatory boards, as part of their enforcement duties, have various options with respect to how they handle less serious alleged violations by licensees. One such option is called “cite and fine” authority. It is important to carefully review the laws, rules or regulations that govern such authority by the board so that you know the consequences of any “settlement” and you know what your rights are in this area. Consultation with your professional association or a lawyer (at the earliest time possible) is prudent and often critical in any kind of investigation by the board.

It is not uncommon for regulatory boards to have the authority to assess a fine and give the licensee an opportunity to pay the fine and thereby dispose of the case without there being an admission of wrongdoing by the licensee. Is payment of a fine an admission of wrongdoing in your state? If the licensee doesn’t pay the fine or doesn’t resolve the matter with the board, then the board would generally consider whether or not they have a strong enough case to bring a formal proceeding against the licensee.

Another question of importance in making a decision as to whether or not to resolve a citation by paying a fine is whether or not the board publicly discloses the names of those licensees who resolve the matter by paying the fine. It is also important to determine if such a resolution constitutes “disciplinary action.” What’s the situation in your state for your license?

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Richard Leslie

Richard S. Leslie is an attorney and acknowledged expert on the interrelationship between law and the practice of marriage and family therapy and psychotherapy. Most recently, he was a consultant to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and has written articles regarding legal and ethical issues for their Family Therapy Magazine. Prior to his work with AAMFT, Richard was Legal Counsel to the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) for approximately twenty-two years. While there, he also served as their director of Government Relations and tirelessly advocated for due process and fairness for licensees and applicants.

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