A System Unaccountable: A Special Report on Iowa's Professional Licensing Boards, February 27, 2017

(2017) A System Unaccountable: A Special Report on Iowa's Professional Licensing Boards, February 27, 2017. Iowa Citizens' Aide/Ombudsman


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Over the past five years, citizens have filed 48 complaints with the Ombudsman against state licensing boards. Some of those complaints involved unreturned phone messages, the timely posting of meeting minutes, and concerns about the licensing process, to name a few. More substantive complaints involved close to a dozen different boards. In all but one of those cases, our complainants expressed the same frustration: Not only had the boards failed to take action against the professionals they complained about, but the boards also offered no meaningful explanations for their decisions. We were surprised when we repeatedly ran into the same dead end in our review of these same complaints. Even though the Ombudsman has statutory authority to “examine any and all records and documents of any agency” (including confidential records), the boards shared few records with us that shed any light on how they arrived at their decisions. We presumed this meant that board members had judged the cases in closed-session meetings not open to the public. So we requested minutes and audio recordings of the closed-session meetings. The boards’ legal representatives—all from the Iowa Attorney General’s office—maintained that our office was barred from reviewing these records, despite our authority to review confidential records. Various assistant attorneys general began to argue in early 2012 that closed-session records could be released only at the order of a judge. We disagreed, noting that for years we had received such records from other state and local agencies with little or no resistance.6 Our attempts to learn details of closed-session discussions through interviews of board members also yielded little information. During one interview, an assistant attorney general advised a board member not to offer us specifics on why he and his colleagues had rejected a complaint filed against a licensee.

Item Type: Departmental Report
Keywords: Ombudsman, Investigation, Iowa's Professional Licensing Board,
Subjects: State government
State government > Licenses and permits
State government > Licenses and permits > Business and professional licenses
State government > State agencies
ID Code: 23532
Deposited By: Margaret Barr
Deposited On: 27 Feb 2017 19:06
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2017 19:06
URI: https://publications.iowa.gov/id/eprint/23532