4-30-138  <<  4-30-140 >>   4-30-142

What are the authority, structure, and processes for investigations and sanctions?

Authority:
Investigations are responsive to formal complaints or indications of a potential violation of chapter 18.04 RCW and in all proceedings under RCW 18.04.295 or chapter 34.05 RCW.
The board chair may delegate investigative authority and responsibility for initiating and directing investigations to a designee including the executive director of the board (RCW 18.04.045(7)).
Structure:
Investigations must be directed and conducted by individuals sufficiently qualified and knowledgable of the subject matter of an investigation.
The general responsibilities when directing an investigation are:
(1) Determine whether the complaint or other source of information is within the authority of the board;
(2) Determine the most likely sanction the board might impose if the alleged violation is proven;
(3) Determine the scope and type of evidence needed to reach a conclusion whether a violation occurred;
(4) Monitor communications to the person(s) affected by the investigative process;
(5) Monitor the progress of the evidentiary gathering process to ensure that the scope of inquiry and request for records is limited to that necessary to reach a conclusion whether the violation occurred;
(6) Upon completion of the investigation, evaluate the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conclusion as to whether a violation occurred;
(7) Develop a recommendation for dismissal or sanction for consideration by a consulting board member based upon the accumulated evidence and the board's "fair and equitable" standard for sanctioning.
Processes:
By board delegation, the executive director directs the complaint processes, investigative activities, and case resolution negotiations. The gathering of appropriate evidence should be assigned to staff or contract investigators who have no current or former close relationship to (or with) the complainant or the respondent.
Upon receiving a complaint or otherwise becoming aware of a situation or condition that might constitute a violation of the Public Accountancy Act (act) or board rules, the executive director will make a preliminary assessment.
If the executive director determines:
• The situation or condition is not within the board's authority, the executive director may dismiss the matter, but a record of the event will be documented and maintained in the board office in accordance with the agency's approved retention schedule. A summary of dismissals will be reported regularly to the board.
• The situation or condition requires further evaluation, the executive director assigns the case to a staff or contract investigator.
Details of the additional evidence gathered and the resulting conclusion by the executive director will be documented. If the executive director determines that:
• Sufficient evidence does not exist to merit board action, the executive director may dismiss the case, but a record of the event will be documented and maintained in the board office in accordance with the agency's approved record retention schedule. A summary of dismissals will be reported regularly to the board.
• Sufficient evidence exists to merit board action and it is the first time an individual or firm is notified of a violation of the Public Accountancy Act or board rule, the executive director may impose administrative sanctions approved by the board for a first-time offense.
• Sufficient evidence exists to merit board consideration but the situation or condition, if proven, is not eligible for administrative sanctions, the executive director will discuss a resolution strategy and settlement parameters with a consulting board member. Once the executive director and consulting board member agree on those matters, the executive director and assigned staff or contract investigator will initiate a discussion for resolution with the respondent consistent with that agreed upon strategy and those settlement parameters.
The executive director may request guidance from a consulting board member and/or the assistance of the assigned prosecuting assistant attorney general at any time during the investigative and/or negotiation processes.
If the respondent is amenable to the suggested resolution and terminology of a negotiated proposal, the executive director will forward the proposal to the respondent for written acceptance. If accepted by the respondent, the proposal will be forwarded to the board for approval.
Upon receiving and considering the formal settlement proposal, the respondent may offer a counterproposal. The executive director and assigned staff or contract investigator will discuss the counterproposal with a consulting board member. The executive director and consulting board member may agree to the counterproposal, offer a counter to the counterproposal, or reject the counterproposal.
If the executive director and consulting board member reject the counterproposal or are unable to negotiate what they consider to be an acceptable alternative proposal with the respondent, the executive director will execute a statement of charges and refer the case to the assigned prosecuting assistant attorney general with the request that an administrative hearing be scheduled and the case prosecuted.
At the same time that the assigned prosecuting assistant attorney general is preparing the case for prosecution, the assigned prosecuting assistant attorney general, working with the executive director and consulting board member, will continue to seek a negotiated settlement (consent agreement) in lieu of a board hearing. If the case goes to hearing before the board, the assigned prosecuting assistant attorney general, with the concurrence of the executive director and consulting board member, will present the team's recommended sanction to the board.
Through this process, the consulting board member, the executive director and, when appropriate, the assigned prosecuting assistant attorney general must individually and jointly act objectively and cooperatively to:
• Draw conclusions as to the allegations based solely on the evidence;
• Develop and present to the respondent a suggested settlement proposal that they believe the board will accept because the proposal is fair and equitable and provides public protection; and
• If the case goes to a hearing before the board, recommend an appropriate sanction or sanctions to the board.
No proposed negotiated settlement is forwarded to the board unless the respondent, the executive director, consulting board member and, when appropriate, the assigned prosecuting assistant attorney general concur that the proposal is an acceptable resolution to the matter.
If the participants in the negotiation concur with the negotiated resolution and terminology of the agreement, a proposed consent agreement is to be signed by the respondent, and signed by the assigned prosecuting assistant attorney general if the settlement was negotiated by the assigned prosecuting assistant attorney general, and forwarded to the board members, along with the executive director's, consulting board member's and, when appropriate, assigned prosecuting assistant attorney general's recommendation to accept the proposal for consideration.
The board is not bound by this recommendation.
All proposed consent agreements must be approved by a majority vote of the board. Five "no" votes mean the proposed settlement has been rejected by the board. In such circumstances, the case will return to the executive director, consulting board member, and assigned prosecuting assistant attorney general who will determine whether the situation merits additional attempts to negotiate a settlement or to immediately schedule the matter for an administrative hearing before the board.
All fully executed consent agreements and board orders become effective the date the document is signed by the board's presiding officer unless otherwise specified in the fully executed consent agreement or board order.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 18.04.045 (7) and (8), 14.04.055 [18.04.055], 18.04.295, and 18.04.350(6). WSR 14-22-034, § 4-30-140, filed 10/28/14, effective 11/28/14; WSR 10-24-009, § 4-30-140, filed 11/18/10, effective 12/19/10.]
Site Contents
Selected content listed in alphabetical order under each group