Transparency varies among virginia licensees virginia raid 0 data recovery

For that, in virginia, it’s mostly buyer beware. It needn’t be. The virginia motor vehicle dealer board investigates thousands of complaints each year, but it does not make the information readily available to the consumers it’s charged with protecting.

You could file a written request for each specific dealer to find out whether it has a clean record or has been accused of shady practices, and you might wait days or weeks for a response.

However, if today you were concerned instead about an upcoming appointment with a new cardiologist, you could go to the virginia department of health professions website, learn where they went to school and were trained, whether they are board certified in that specialty, whether they are on the faculty of a medical school and — perhaps just as important in easing your anxiety — if they have paid any malpractice claims or faced disciplinary action by the board of medicine.Agencies boards

The commonwealth licenses more than a million tradesmen, professionals and businesses, though the exact number is difficult to tally since dozens of separate agencies and boards are charged with oversight.

In observation of sunshine week, the annual national event highlighting the public’s right to know about information gathered by the government on its behalf, the roanoke times tested the transparency of some of these agencies in sharing information about the people they regulate with the people they are charged to protect.

We approached this as if we were ordinary citizens checking the qualifications and licenses of people with whom we would seek to do business and to determine if we could readily discover if they had faced disciplinary action.East mental

We looked first online. When the information didn’t exist or wasn’t easily found, we emailed questions to media contacts. At this stage, we identified ourselves as journalists, so we do not know whether readers would get the same response.

For the most part, agencies were responsive and fulfilled our requests within a week without charge, except for the motor vehicle dealer board, which billed us $35 to answer basic questions.

State agencies such as the department of health professions and the department of professional and occupational regulation post most of the information about licensees prominently on their websites and provide information about complaints.Dealer board virginia’s board of accountancy is striving for something similar.

The state department of education posts all teacher licensing sanctions, but the data are in an excel spreadsheet that might prove challenging for people to sort through. Varying transparency

We discovered differences in how agencies handle licensing information while reporting on the closing of a roanoke business that was licensed to help people overcome serious mental illness.

East mental health received a certified letter from the virginia department of medicaid assistance services in october stating that the agency “has been made aware of allegations of fraud concerning your participation as a provider within the virginia medicaid program.”

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For several years, east mental health has been the target of a pending federal whistleblower lawsuit filed by former employees alleging the company overbilled medicaid. Investigators obtained search warrants for the company’s records in 2015, but neither federal nor state charges have been filed.

Virginia’s medicaid agency refused to explain why it sent the letter when it did, and the licensing state agency, the department of behavioral health and developmental services, offered no explanation.

We heard from a number of east mental health clients who were confused by the shutdown. Though east mental health has closed and its building is for sale, both state agencies still list it as a provider in good standing.East mental

We also learned that the firm’s owner planned to appeal the medicaid decision, but the agency told us it would hold an “informal fact-finding conference” that would be closed to the public.

The secrecy was puzzling. We checked with megan rhyne, executive director of the virginia coalition for open government, who told us each agency sets its own rules about when disciplinary proceedings are open to the public and how and when it makes actions public.

Even agencies within departments adopt different rules. The medicaid and mental health agencies are two of 12 state agencies that fall under the jurisdiction of the virginia secretary of health and human services.East mental health

The department of health professions is another. It oversees 13 regulatory boards that license more than 380,00 health care practitioners in more than 62 professions. It hosts a more transparent system with a license lookup feature that flags whether a licensee has faced disciplinary action. Informal conferences are open to the public.

The disparities within one department prompted us to check on how other agencies handle this information. We have assembled the information we have gathered on roanoke.Com where it will remain under the “in depth” tab to help you cut through some of the red tape. You’ll also find links on how to file complaints.

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Though VCOG does not take a position on whom or what should be regulated, “if the government is going to require a license, there has to be a way to get at whether they are issued and regulated fairly,” rhyne said.

Different agencies and boards view transparency differently. Sometimes, rhyne said, they aren’t seeking to keep information from the public; they just haven’t given it much thought. Once they do, they make a greater effort to post information on their websites.

Alan gernhardt, executive director of the virginia freedom of information act council, said it is possible technologically, though probably cumbersome legislatively, to set up a uniform system to share information on licensees and disciplinary actions.Agencies boards

One of the difficulties, he said, is that there are so many agencies and boards — all addressed in different parts of the state code — governing a wide variety of occupations that require vastly different minimum standards and disclosure.

The department, whose acronym DPOR is pronounced dee-pour, can trace its roots to 1670 when the virginia house of burgesses regulated the first occupation of harbor pilots who were given “branches” after demonstrating they could safely navigate the commonwealth’s waterways.

Today, DPOR oversees 18 regulatory boards and programs that offer several hundred types of licenses required by more than 300,000 individuals and businesses.East mental as of june 2016, the date of the agency’s last biennial report, 46 licensed branch pilots still navigated virginia’s waters. None had generated complaints.

During the two-year period that preceded the report, DPOR boards issued 92 licensing orders, 527 disciplinary orders and 873 consent orders. The top three areas of complaints involved contractors, real estate and fair housing, and barbers and cosmetology.

DPOR has jurisdiction only over licensed individuals, but it can assist in criminal investigations against those practicing a regulated trade without a license.

There you can also find information on architects, opticians, polygraph examiners, water and wastewater workers, auctioneers, nail technicians, home inspectors, interior designers, plumbers, and more, and what the requirements are to meet the minimum standards for each.East mental

One of the newest professions to fall under DPOR’s domain is that of natural gas auto techs. (gasoline and diesel auto mechanics are not licensed.)

Should you find that you need to change the locks, you would turn to the virginia department of criminal justice to check for a licensed locksmith. You can see who is licensed but would need to make a written request to learn of any complaints. Same goes for other professions regulated by criminal justice that include bail bondsmen, tow truck drivers and private investigators.

The virginia state bar provides a searchable data base of attorneys who are not in good standing. Complaints remain confidential unless a lawyer receives public discipline.Agencies boards the board publishes a monthly list of disciplinary cases, and it requires an attorney whose license is suspended or revoked to notify through certified mail all clients and opposing attorneys and presiding judges in pending litigation.

Virginia licenses more than 4,000 dealers and sales staffers at nearly 3,000 locations. The motor vehicle dealer board investigated 4,740 consumer complaints according to its latest biennial report published in 2016. About half those complaints resulted in fines or some type of discipline, but the only way for a consumer to know that is to sift through PDF files of the board’s “dealer talk newsletter.”

Each edition carries a list of board actions against dealers, but it does not disclose their locations.Dealer board you also can file a freedom of information act request with the board asking for information on a specific dealer. You may be charged a fee.

On the topic of money itself, the virginia state corporation commission maintains oversight of most people and institutions that invest or lend money and of those who sell insurance to protect your assets.

The SCC is not covered under FOIA, but it does regularly post all of the board’s rulings, including disciplinary actions, online. More coverage