In the first part of this series I discussed the disciplinary process leading up to the Probable Cause Panel (“Panel”) proceedings. This article will discuss how an Administrative Complaint is properly filed to initiate formal discipline on a licensee, and the decisions that a licensee must make once an Administrative Complaint is filed. The Department must abide by the provisions in Chapter 120, Florida Statutes, as this governs formal disciplinary proceedings regarding license holders in the state of Florida.
Once a month, the Panel is tasked with reviewing case files that contain a recommended Closing Order, Administrative Complaint, or Dismissal. These proceedings are a requirement of section 455.225, Florida Statutes. Prior to the Department initiating disciplinary proceedings on a licensee, the Panel must find that probable cause exits concerning the violations alleged in the Administrative Complaint.
After the Panel makes its determination and directs the Department to file an Administrative Complaint, the licensee will be served at his/her address of record. It is vital that a licensee maintains an updated address. The reason being, Chapter 120, Florida Statutes, only requires a licensee to be served at his/her address of record.
How a licensee responds to an Administrative Complaint will greatly affect the potential discipline administered on his/her license. Chapter 120, Florida Statutes, requires an Election of Rights (“EOR”) to be filed within twenty-one (21) days of receipt. There are essentially two options a licensee should consider:
- Elect a Formal Hearing – disputing material facts alleged in the Administrative Complaint.
- Elect an Informal Hearing – not disputing material facts, but would like to provide the Board with mitigating factors regarding the allegations in the Administrative Complaint.
The Department will serve an EOR form with the Administrative Complaint, which is intended to simplify the process for licensees, resulting in a valid and timely response. There are instructions on the second page of the form regarding how to complete the document. It is imperative that a licensee reads the form, and understands it in its entirety, prior to completing and filing with the Department.
If the Department does not receive a response within the required twenty-one (21) days, the Department will publicize the Administrative Complaint on its website for four (4) straight weeks. If a licensee fails to respond, it is deemed a waiver of their right to dispute the allegations in the Administrative Complaint.
For discipline to be issued against a licensee, the Board will review the entire case file at a duly noticed Final Action Hearing and must issue a Final Order detailing the discipline administered. Typically, the Department issues the following types of discipline:
- Administrative fines and costs
- Continuing education
- Revocation of license
All discipline must be completed within a certain timeframe that is identified in the Final Order, assuming the license is not revoked. If a licensee does not comply with a Final Order within the required timeframe, their license is immediately suspended. Considering one’s license correlates with their livelihood, it is crucial for a licensee to properly respond if an Administrative Complaint is filed against their license.