This process is used for the Boards that are administered in the Business Standards Division. The various Programs administered in the Division use a similar process.
Important: When filing or responding to a complaint, be as thorough as possible. You may attach additional documents to the complaint form to ensure that all pertinent information has been included. The Screening Panel meeting is NOT a hearing, but is a time for the panel to consider the complaint and response. Attendance is your choice. If you attend the panel may ask additional questions. Please notify this office prior to the meeting if you plan to attend.
After a complaint has been filed against a licensed individual the Compliance Office will send a letter of acknowledgment to the person who filed the complaint (Complainant), and a letter requesting a response (with a copy of the complaint) to the licensee against whom the complaint was filed.
The Licensee may submit a written response addressing the complaint to the Compliance Office. The process continues whether or not a response is submitted. The Complainant is not entitled to a copy of the response.
The Compliance Office will notify the Licensee and Complainant regarding the date and time of any meeting during which the case will be discussed.
Complaints remain confidential unless a Notice of Proposed Board Action is issued, which is a public document along with all subsequent legal filings.
- Closed Meeting - During a Closed Meeting only the Licensee, the Complainant, and/or attorneys for either can be in attendance. Minutes of Closed Meetings are not public documents.
- Open Meeting - A public meeting which anyone can attend. The minutes of Open meetings are public documents and made available online via the specific Board’s webpage. (Adjudication Panel meetings are usually open.)
Individuals may attend a meeting in person or by telephone. Please notify this office prior to the meeting if you plan to attend the meeting.
- Screening Panel - A committee comprised of members of the Board. The Screening Panel’s function is to determine the preliminary action(s) to take on a complaint. Possible preliminary actions include dismissal, investigation, or a finding of Reasonable Cause.
The complaint and response (if any) are submitted to the Screening Panel members. The Screening Panel meeting is not a hearing, but rather a committee meeting to review and discuss the complaint and response to determine if disciplinary action is warranted.
If the Screening Panel dismisses a complaint, the complaint can be dismissed with or without prejudice (see definitions below).
- Dismissal With Prejudice - The complaint is dismissed and cannot be considered by the Screening Panel in the future.
- Dismissal Without Prejudice - The complaint is dismissed but may be considered by the Screening Panel in the future if there are ever allegations of a similar nature.
Only a member of the Screening Panel can request an investigation of a complaint. If an investigation is requested by the Screening Panel, the case is assigned to an investigator who may request an interview with the Licensee, the Complainant, and/or other individuals. Upon completion of the investigation, a written report is submitted to the Screening Panel, which will then determine if there is Reasonable Cause to proceed with disciplinary action.
- Reasonable Cause - A finding by the Screening Panel that evidence exists that a violation of statutes and rules has occurred which warrants proceeding with disciplinary action.
If Reasonable Cause is found, the Department Counsel issues a Notice of Proposed Board Action (Notice) to the Licensee. Once a Notice is issued, it is public information. A proposed Stipulation may be included with the Notice.
- Notice - A legal document from the Department’s Legal Counsel which sets forth the Department’s factual assertions, the statutes or rules relied upon, and advising the licensee of the right to a hearing.
- Stipulation - A tentative agreement for settlement of the case. A Stipulation is not finalized until approved by the Adjudication Panel.
The Licensee may either sign the Stipulation or contest the proposed action by requesting an administrative Hearing (a legal process before a Hearing Examiner). If the Licensee wishes to request a hearing, written request must be received within twenty (20) days from receipt of the Notice. Failure to either sign a Stipulation or request a hearing within twenty (20) days may result in the issuing of a Final Order of Default against the licensee.
- Default - the licensee’s acceptance of the disciplinary action demonstrated by failing to participate in the process
- Adjudication Panel - A committee comprised of members of the Board who are NOT on the Screening Panel. The Adjudication Panel determines the final outcome of a case.
The Adjudication Panel reviews the record to determine appropriate sanctions. A Final Order is issued by the Adjudication Panel, completing the complaint process.
Complaint Process Flow
Current license status and information regarding disciplinary action(s) against a licensee can be accessed online at: https://ebiz.mt.gov/pol/