All certified contractors must abide by the provisions of Chapter 489, Florida Statutes, which govern construction contracting. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (“Department”) is tasked with the responsibility of regulating the construction industry and disciplining the licensee for violations of Chapter 489, Florida Statutes. Practically everyday, the Department receives at least one complaint alleging a certified contractor violated this practice act.
In most cases, for the complaint process to begin, an individual, typically a homeowner, will complete a uniform complaint form and submit to the Department. Once the Department receives the uniform complaint, it is analyzed for legal sufficiency. If the Complaint is legally sufficient, the matter is assigned to an investigator and notification is served on the “subject” of the investigation (“subject” refers to the contractor that the complaint is filed against). Section 455.225, Florida Statutes, also provides specific requirements for the Department to follow for disciplinary proceedings.
The Department must provide the subject twenty (20) days to submit a response to the uniform complaint. It is essential for the subject to be served with all allegations against him/her. If a new allegation materializes, the subject must be notified and be given an additional twenty (20) days to respond. The investigator is tasked with compiling all relevant information to prove the violations alleged and drafting a report summarizing the facts/circumstances of the complaint.
After an investigator completes their report, the complaint is forwarded to the Department’s legal division and is assigned to an attorney. It is the prosecuting attorney’s responsibility to analyze all the evidence in the file and determine if probable cause exists as to the violations alleged in the complaint. Thereafter, the prosecuting attorney will do one of two things: (1) draft a Closing Order, or (2) draft an Administrative Complaint. Unlike other Boards at the Department, the Construction Industry Licensing Board (“CILB”) delegated authority to the Department to close cases where probable cause does not exist.
If the determination is made that probable cause does not exist, typically a Closing Order will be drafted and the case will be closed. Cases that are closed prior to the finding of probable cause are confidential and exempt from section 119.07(1), Florida Statutes. As such, members of the public will not know that a complaint was filed against a subject’s license (public cases will be discussed in Part II of this series).
Every month the Probable Cause Panel for the CILB will convene to consider disciplinary cases. The probable cause meeting is confidential and is conducted by two members of the subject’s license division. Ultimately, it is the Panel’s responsibility to examine all evidence to determine if probable cause exists for the case being presented. The Department is tasked with formulating a recommendation to the Panel in the form of a Closing Order, Administrative Complaint, or Dismissal.
As stated previously, the Department does have closing order authority; however, there are a few circumstances where a case will be referred to the Panel for the purpose of approving the Department’s recommendation. An Administrative Complaint is a formal document officially filing charges against a Subject’s license. The Panel must approve all Administrative Complaints before they are filed with the Department’s Agency Clerk.
In Part II of this series we will go into further detail regarding Administrative Complaints and Dismissals, as these are public documents that could have an immense effect on a contractor’s license.