a licensed professional in the State of Colorado you have certain
rights and obligations. If a complaint is filed against your license,
it may stay within the board it was filed with, or it may be referred
to the Office of Investigations. The below questions have been prepared
to help you understand and participate in the process that begins
when a complaint has been filed against your license or certification.
It is not intended to provide legal advice. You are encouraged to
contact the investigator assigned to your case or the appropriate
licensing board if you have specific questions. You may also want
to contact an attorney for legal advice.
Questions and Answers
A. Anyone who believes you have violated your professional practice act may file a complaint with your licensing board. Many boards can initiate their own complaint upon receipt of information such as newspapers, phone calls and other sources. There may be a legal obligation to report alleged violations to the board; for example, some practice acts require that employers report discipline or termination for violations of that act. Malpractice settlements must usually be reported.
What is a complaint?
A. A complaint states that the person making the complaint believes that there has been a violation of a licensee's professional standards or obligations. It is filed with the appropriate licensing board.
Q. What happens after the complaint is filed?
A. There is an initial review by staff or the board to determine whether, if the facts alleged in the complaint were proven to be true, a violation of the practice act would have occurred. At this point, the board may ask you for further information. If the initial review determines that the board does not have jurisdiction or that no violation has occurred, the board dismisses the complaint. Assuming the facts, if proven, would constitute a violation, the complaint may be forwarded to the Office of Investigation and assigned to an investigator.
Q. If the complaint is forwarded to the Office of Investigations, do I receive notice?
A. Generally you will receive a letter from the individual board informing you that your complaint has been forwarded to the Office of Investigations. In some circumstances, however, the first contact you have regarding a complaint will be from the investigator assigned to handle the complaint. The investigator may request copies of records and/or documents, witness names, any other information you believe is relevant to the complaint, as well as ask for your side of the story.
Q. Do I need an attorney at this point?
A. A license is an important property interest. Whether or not to retain an attorney is entirely your decision; there is no legal requirement that you have one. If you hire an attorney all financial obligations are yours. You may be represented by an attorney at any stage of the proceeding.
Q. Should I cooperate with the investigator?
A. Whether or not to cooperate is entirely your decision. Some practice acts require that you cooperate and may impose penalties for failure to do so. Other practice acts do not. You should check with your licensing board to determine this. The board will review all information regarding the incident(s), both favorable and unfavorable. This is your chance to communicate with the board to tell your side of the story. Many cases are dismissed by boards when the licensee has been able to provide a concise, thorough version of the incident(s). Failure to respond or provide information can result in the board only seeing one version of the complaint.
Q. What happens to the information I give to the investigator?
A. It is reviewed by the investigator and reported to the board in the investigator's Report of Investigation.
Q. What happens in an investigation?
A. The investigator may contact witnesses, review relevant documents and in some complex cases retain an expert consultant. Most agencies have subpoena authority, which may be used to gather information. The investigator then prepares a Report of Investigation for board review. However, the investigator does not make any recommendations to the board for disposition.
Q. How long does an investigation take?
A. There is no set time frame. However, investigators try to process a complaint within 240 days of receipt of the complaint in the Office of Investigations. If the investigator is able to readily obtain information the investigation may proceed quickly. Caseloads and budget constraints also influence how quickly a case moves. There are many cases that may take longer than 240 days. Talking with the investigator will give you the best estimate of when the Report of Investigation will be prepared and presented to the board.
Q. Do I get a copy of the Report of Investigation?
A. Generally, reports are available after the board has reviewed it and upon request. However, some boards are bound by confidentiality and may not be able to release the report.
Q. Do I get notice of when the board will review the Report of Investigation in my case?
A. Boards are not required to send notice. You may contact the board or the investigator to inquire about the status of the investigation and the dates and locations of any meetings where the matter might be discussed; this is your responsibility. Some boards review Reports of Investigation in a closed meeting, which is not open to the licensee. If you are allowed to attend you will probably not be permitted to address the board and will only be allowed to listen to the discussion. Please check with the appropriate licensing board.
Q. Can the public review the Report of Investigation before and after the board has taken action?
A. Regulatory agencies are governed by the government Open Records Act, which generally provides the public access to government documents. However, there are many exceptions and some documents remain confidential. Each board is specific as to its confidentiality requirements and you should direct any inquiry to the board.
What happens after the board reviews the Report of Investigation?
A. If the board finds no violation occurred the case will be dismissed. If the board feels no formal action is warranted, but a violation occurred, it may issue a letter of admonition, which is a reprimand. These letters are issued by the board to you directly and include information about your rights to appeal. If the board finds that your conduct was more serious and probably violated the licensing law, it will refer the case to the Office of the Attorney General for a hearing. The Assistant Attorney General assigned to the case will prepare formal charges based upon the alleged violations. The hearings are conducted before an Administrative Law Judge at the Division of Administrative Hearings. It is conducted like a trial. You or your attorney will generally have the opportunity to discuss settlement of the case with the Assistant Attorney General. This may avoid the expense and time of a hearing. If no settlement is reached, a hearing date will be set. You have the right to present your response to the charges at the hearing.
Q. What happens if after the hearing I am found to have committed a violation?
A. The sanctions may include continuing education, probation, suspension or revocation of your license. Each board is different as to the range of sanctions it can seek against a license. Each board retains final authority to impose whatever discipline it decides is appropriate based on the findings from the hearing and based on its statutory authority. This Final Agency Order is reviewable on appeal to the appropriate court. Specific information should be obtained directly from the appropriate board.