In the firm’s 16-year history, we have represented several hundred veterinarians. Most being the unfortunate recipients of a complaint which are all investigated and fully vetted by the Veterinary Medical Board (“Board”). Although we have a pretty stellar track record of convincing the Board to close its investigation, that, is not always possible. The last thing we (or our clients) want is to face disciplinary action by the Board. There are various forms of discipline ranging from revocation of licensure to a public reprimand (i.e. slap on the wrist). With this in mind, we always strive to avoid any and all types of discipline and have even accepted citations issued by the Board which order our clients to pay a penalty and complete various continuing education courses. Citations, albeit not ideal, were not considered discipline. (1)
Recently, it appears that the Board has taken a sharp left turn in its treatment of citations as two of our clients accepted citations and found themselves listed on the Board’s website with PDF links to the actual citations. In the past, the Board would simply post on its website that a licensee had received a citation but would not provide that citation (a public record) unless requested in writing.
The Board’s Posting of These Citations is Improper and Illegal
We believe the Board’s actions in suddenly posting these citations is improper and illegal for the following reasons:
1. At the time our clients agreed to pay the Citations and waive their right to appeal, the Board did not post them in PDF form on BREEZE. Had our clients known of this policy, they would never have agreed to waive their appeals, and they relied to their detriment in paying the fines and accepting the citations.
2. This sudden change in policy violates the due process rights of any licensee who paid a Citation that was later posted. There was simply no advanced notice of the consequence of agreeing to the Citation and paying the fine.
3. The Citations fail to provide notice that they will be posted online; rather they state:
A citation and fine is a public record that remains on the licensing file for a period of five (5) years from the date of resolution. After five years, if no further action is taken, the record is cleared, and the file destroyed. If formal disciplinary action is instituted during the five-year period following the resolution of the citation and fine, the citation document may become a part of the permanent enforcement record.
4. The Board lacks legal basis to change this policy without notice or proceeding through the rulemaking process. And posting the Citations in PDF form clearly violates the Board and Committee Member Administrative Procedure Manual, Chapter 9, entitled Enforcement and Information which clearly states:
The Board only provides citation and fine information in
response to specific, individual written requests. The Board
does not publish individual names of licensees or registrants
who have been cited and/or fined and does not report such
actions to the National Disciplinary Database.
Attempting to force the Board to remove the citation from its website would be quite costly and likely involves the filing of a Petition for Writ of Mandate in the superior court. Because the impact on the licensee can be significant, be sure to get confirmation from the Board that the citation will not be posted before accepting a citation. Circumstances are unique, but you very well may be better off appealing the citation and fighting the Board than having a citation looming over your head for all to see for 5 years. Simas & Associates specializes in defending veterinarians against the Board and knows exactly what information the Board is looking to uncover. If you find yourself under investigation, call our office immediately to set up a free consultation.
(1)Avoiding discipline is key because with discipline comes the obligation to report and disclose to employees, clients, insurance carriers, etc…