Frequently Asked Questions before Filing a Complaint
What happens when I file a complaint?
Your complaint will be reviewed by a complaint analyst who will examine the facts you allege and then review all applicable laws governing the profession or occupation to determine if there is a possible violation of law.
Are all complaints investigated?
No. If the complaint analyst determines your complaint, as alleged, does not fall within the board’s jurisdiction, then there is no legal authority to investigate. You will receive a letter stating that an investigation will not be opened.
Sometimes a complaint lacks sufficient information for the complaint analyst to decide as to whether a licensing law may have been violated. If that happens, you will receive a letter from OIE requesting additional information. Should you receive this letter, please respond as quickly as possible. If the requested information is not received within 10 business days, the complaint will not be opened for an investigation. If the additional information you provide still is not sufficient to process your complaint, you will receive written notification that the matter will not be opened for an investigation.
Will I know if OIE opens an investigation based on my complaint?
Yes. The investigator assigned to the case will send an acknowledgement letter that will explain the investigative process and provide you contact information. The investigator will also call you to discuss your complaint with you.
Will my name be kept confidential?
If a respondent asks for the name of the complainant, absent certain circumstances, due process may require disclosure.
How long will the investigation take?
Investigations generally take between 60 and 180 days, but the length of an investigation depends on the nature and complexity of the case and whether evidence is easily obtainable among other factors.
What happens during the investigation?
The investigator will gather evidence and interview witnesses including the licensee. The investigator may issue a subpoena if necessary.
You may be asked to cooperate with the investigation, which may include providing a written statement, providing additional supporting documentation, allowing access for an inspection, and/or providing testimony before the professional board, commission, or panel. Please keep in mind that failure to cooperate or be forthcoming during the investigation or to provide information as requested in a timely matter may impede the investigation.
Will I be kept up to date on the case?
Once OIE opens an investigation, you, as the complainant, are not a party to the disciplinary matter (the parties are the licensee and the State), but you are a potential witness. While the assigned investigator may provide you an update on the process, s/he will not be able to share full details of an investigation with you due to confidentiality laws and/or to maintain the integrity of the investigation. You may contact the investigator if you have a question as to where the case stands in the investigative process.
If you file your complaint anonymously, you will not receive any updates or receive confirmation of whether a case has been opened. Additionally, anonymous complaints can be more challenging to process and investigate because if additional information is needed, the investigator will not be able to contact you.
What happens once the investigation is complete?
At the conclusion of an investigation, the case proceeds to an Investigative Review Committee (IRC). See #13 below for more information about the IRC process. If a case is dismissed, the complainant will be notified, but may not receive a detailed explanation of the dismissal because of confidentiality laws. In some cases, a Letter of Caution or Letter of Concern (LOC) may be issued to a licensee. An LOC is non-disciplinary action, but remains in the Respondent’s licensing file and is not subject to public disclosure. If a board approves a case for further legal action after an investigation, the matter will be referred to the Agency’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
How does the board make a decision regarding an investigation?
Because a board cannot both investigate and adjudicate a case, an Investigative Review Committee (IRC) is established for each board. A board will review and vote on the IRC recommendations. The IRC is an internal review committee comprised of: (1) an attorney from the Agency to give legal advice regarding the cases presented, (2) at least one subject matter expert who is a licensee and a non-board member who provides expertise in the area of practice, (3) the board administrator who provides information as to how the board has handled similar cases historically for consistency purposes, and (4) the Chief Investigator who keeps the meeting on schedule. The IRC recommendations are presented in a report to the board to vote upon. A board can dismiss an investigation or refer for further legal proceedings if supported by the evidence. If a case is forwarded for further legal action, a consent agreement may be offered or a hearing may be set.
What disciplinary actions can a board take regarding a professional license?
While a board has a wide range of sanctions it can impose if it determines that disciplinary action is appropriate, a sanction will be based on several factors including the severity of the violation, the disciplinary history of the licensee, and consideration of any aggravating or mitigating evidence presented. Discipline can range from a civil penalty, probation with conditions, restriction of an area of practice, up to suspension and revocation of a license. A board’s decision, as a matter of law, must be supported by the evidence and not be arbitrary or capricious.
Will I be notified of the final outcome?
Yes. If a case is dismissed after an investigation, you will receive a dismissal letter from the board administrator. If a case proceeds with disciplinary action, you will receive a written notification from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel when the case has reached a conclusion. Disciplinary Board Orders and Consent Agreements that are designated as public may be obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request and are also available on the agency’s website.
Can I appeal a decision regarding the complaint if I disagree with it?
No. As mentioned above, you are not a party to the case because it is a professional disciplinary matter, so you do not have standing to appeal a board decision.
Can I get a copy of the investigation file?
The Agency is limited in its legal authority to release most information related to a complaint and/or investigation. Most boards have language in their laws that specifically states information is confidential or privileged. However, all public actions taken against a licensee, such as a final order, can be released.