National regulatory organization awards DORA for investigative work and consumer protection
DENVER (Sept. 15, 2017) - The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) today was awarded the Group Investigative Award for its Division of Professions and Occupations’ “swift and coordinated effort” with the Denver District Attorney’s Office in the arrest and prosecution of an individual falsely representing himself as a physician. Additionally, former DORA Executive Director Joe Neguse was given the Consumer Protection Award. Awards were given by the Council of Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR), an international regulatory association, at its 37th annual educational conference taking place this week in Denver.
CLEAR bestows its awards on teams that “demonstrated exceptional performance beyond what it expected or required, resulting in a direct and significant impact to the protection of the public or consumer interests.” The event is attended by more than 600 members of the regulatory community from across North America, Europe, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
Group Investigative Award - Division of Professions and Occupations (DPO)
In early Aug. 2016, the Colorado Medical Board received a complaint concerning the unlicensed practice of medicine by an individual representing himself as a licensed physician. An interview with a previous patient of the respondent revealed a harrowing surgical experience, detailing dangerous and unsafe medical practices used by the respondent. Joint efforts by the Denver District Attorney’s Office, Second Judicial District, and the DPO's Office of Investigations led to an on-demand subpoena for patient records and notification of the respondent of the complaint.
Upon arrival at the respondent’s place of business, the investigative team was made aware of a surgery actively in progress. The surgery was stopped and after having admitted to operating without a physician’s license in the State of Colorado, the respondent was placed under arrest.
The cross-collaboration between DPO’s Office of Investigations, the Colorado Medical Board and the Denver District Attorney’s Office ultimately resulted in the respondent in the joint case being charged with 126 criminal violations and produced guilty pleas to second-degree felony assault, criminal impersonation, and the unauthorized practice of medicine.
“This is a shining example of the positive inroads that can be made towards protecting consumers when government and law enforcement work in lockstep, while using the public good as the driving force,” said Marguerite Salazar, DORA Executive Director. “I am grateful to everyone who not only worked on this important case, but others across multiple professions with the same vigor and service-minded professionalism.”
The investigation and subsequent prosecution both came during former DORA Executive Director Joe Neguse’s tenure.
Consumer Protection Award - Joe Neguse
The Consumer Protection Award “recognizes an individual who has innovatively contributed to enhancing a broader public understanding of regulatory issues with respect to consumer and public protection and citizen advocacy.” Neguse was awarded for his collaborative approach to consumer advocacy and educational outreach. A voting panel cited DORA’s expansion of their core mission of protecting the public by greatly enhancing its consumer outreach and advocacy programs during his tenure, while building cohesive and lasting partnerships between distinct DORA divisions.
During the course of his tenure from July 2015-June 2017, DORA generated critical consumer protection successes, including the Division of Securities investigating 77 new cases in 2016, which spurred nine criminal indictments and orders for $33 million in damages and restitution; the Division of Insurance recovering roughly $8.3 million for Colorado consumers in 2016; and the Division of Civil Rights partnering with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on a Successful investigation into sexual harassment that led to an EEOC lawsuit and $1 million settlement in 2016 --the largest settlement of its kind in Colorado history.
In addition, the Department focused on making it easier for consumers to file complaints against wrongdoers, including two consumer telephone “hotlines” deployed in November 2016 to assist Colorado consumers — one for senior citizens victimized by fraud and another for Spanish-speaking consumers — and in December 2016 the Department became one of only roughly 10 in the U.S. to offer online filing of civil rights discrimination complaints.
These achievements complement the Department’s recent efforts to significantly expand both online and in-person consumer outreach and education programs to reach a broader and more diverse population of both consumers and licensees, including developing its award-winning Take 5 to Get Wise consumer education campaign (askDORA.colorado.gov); the launch of CO Health Professional Check, which for the first time allows consumers to verify licenses online from their mobile phone (colorado.gov/cohpc); and a consumer-friendly website to engage the public in the regulatory and rule-making process via DORA’s Colorado Office of Policy, Research & Regulatory Reform (colorado.gov/dora-oprrr).
Four awards were handed out in total at a Friday luncheon. Marc Seale, Chief Executive and Registrar of the United Kingdom Health and Care Professions Council, won the Regulatory Excellence Award. Robert Herbert of the Alabama board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors was given the Individual Investigative Excellence Award.