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  • Writer's pictureSarah MacGillis

Board investigations involving dishonesty

Professional licensing board investigations are sometimes initiated because of perceived dishonesty on the part of the licensee. Sometimes that perception is confirmed through the investigative process: the professional has taken an intentional and calculated misstep over the ethical line. Other times, what seems like dishonesty is simply an honest error on the part of the professional.

In its simplest form, the licensed professional must be microscopically honest in carrying out his or her professional job responsibilities in order to avoid board investigations questioning the licensee's ethics. This includes, but is not limited to:

1. Accurate and correct charting: Whether intentional or inadvertent, (erroneous entries in the EMR, mistaken selections from the drop down menu, or not clearing the auto-populate function), incorrect charting can lead to an investigation by a professional's licensing board. Falsifying a record, failing to identify a late entry, or charting something you didn't do are all examples of conduct that I have personally seen lead to board conferences. These actions can sometimes be further exacerbated by the understandable, but wholly unwise conduct of covering up what's been improperly done.

2. License renewal and application: The application and renewal process involves answering what seems like an inordinate number of questions. It is tempting to hit the “no” button on repeat, but that can lead to a Board investigation if that "no" should have been a "yes." Carefully review those questions and truthfully answer them. If you need help understanding what you should put in a narrative to a question in which you answered, "yes," call an attorney experienced in handling professional licensing matters. From my experience, professionals who fail to honestly answer questions on their application or renewal forms are more likely to experience an unwanted result from the board than had they simply answered honestly from the outset.

License renewal forms almost always ask questions about investigation or discipline imposed by other state's licensing boards. Sometimes, the licensee believes that this extra-territorial investigation or discipline does not need to be disclosed in Minnesota because the conduct was alleged to have occurred in Iowa, for example. You simply must disclose this investigation and discipline even if the conduct occurred outside of the state of Minnesota.

Please note that some of the questions on the renewal application relate to conduct that is arguably related to the licensee's private life. Questions regarding charges or convictions for seemingly unimportant offenses, like shoplifting or driving under the influence of alcohol for example, might seem so far removed from the licensee's practice that it is tempting not to disclose them. My strong advice is if your renewal form asks for this information, you simply must provide it.

3. Dishonest conduct related to providing care: Professional license holders are sometimes investigated for billing irregularities, using patient funds, or misappropriating client or patient property. This is an area where excellent record keeping at the outset can save the licensee a number of headaches in the long run. Although tedious, any handling of funds must simply be contemporaneously documented. Trying to recreate what happened after the fact is difficult, if not impossible.

If the underlying conduct is the subject of a criminal investigation, it is best for the criminal defense attorney to work together with the licensee's board defense attorney to try to address, if possible, issues that may be of concern to the Board. Furthermore, the criminal defense attorney may be able to educate the prosecutor about the very significant collateral licensing consequences that might attend certain conduct in order to obtain a just and fair resolution in both forums.

There are certainly other ways in which dishonesty can manifest itself in a professional's practice. If a Board investigation is initiated that encompasses issues of dishonesty, it is always best to be represented by an attorney experienced in handling such matters.

Sarah MacGillis is ready to meet with you and discuss your professional licensing matter.

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