An Epic Fail: How Not To Intimidate Someone

So there I was, attending the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners Meeting on March 20. It was sparsely attended, as usual, with just myself, Christian Wolff (a licensed Psychologist Associate who attends all the board meetings), someone associated with the Oregon Psychological Association, and another guy.

A Mysterious Stranger

After the meeting, Christian and I went out to the lobby and were talking, and the other guy also went to the lobby, so Christian did the polite thing and went over and introduced himself. Then he came back and told me what he learned:

(The laughter is mostly mine.) In short, the other guy was a security guard: a Mr. Colton of Advanced Security, Inc. in Salem. (Nice guy, by the way.) Now, normally I’d have assumed that the only reason for a security guard to attend something as sedate as a Psychology Board meeting would be to catch up on sleep, but he showed too much interest in us for that. In short, he oregon_board_of_psychologist_examinerswas there for us!

Apparently, the Board feels the need to protect themselves from the public. Sad, but very much in keeping with their policy of isolating themselves from the world.

My favorite part of the whole thing, besides my impromptu line, “It’s like a negative entourage, man! I must BE somebody!” is that the guard wasn’t even in uniform. We actually had to go investigate just to find out we were being dissed.

A Mysterious Letter

A week later, the OBPE’s new Executive Director, Charles Hill, felt an inexplicable urge to answer an email of mine — with a certified letter. What the heck? When was the last time you received an actual letter in response to an email? It doesn’t happen, right? Of course it doesn’t. This is the twenty-first century.

So I went down to the post office and signed for the letter. This was a waste of time, because the letter contained essentially no content: it did little more than tell me that Hill wasn’t going to answer my email. Again, what the heck? I mean, I already knew he wasn’t answering my email, because he hadn’t answered my email.

My email was pretty simple, covering only basic stuff:

Dear Mr. Hill,

Congratulations on getting those two Executive Director positions!

I have some questions about OBPE policies and procedures:

  1.  If I email a letter for distribution to the Board, is it distributed to the Board?
  2.  If I email a document for the Board’s consideration at a given meeting, say, a week in advance of the meeting, is it forwarded to the Board? And, if so, when?
  3. What email address will reach all the Board members?
  4.  It used to be possible to attend Board meetings by phone. This has not been working recently. When is it expected to be fixed?
  5.  The information packets for Board meetings used to be available on the Web site. This has not been working recently. When is this expected to be fixed?
  6.  The full text of all final disciplinary actions were available on the Web site up late last year, but now they are gone. When are they expected to be returned to the Web site?

Overall, the OBPE presents itself to the public almost as an abandoned storefront, rather than a going concern. I hope you’re successful in turning that around!

Thanks,

Robert

The mere fact that Hill refused to answer these questions implies what the answers are. They’ll have to be something like this:

  • The answers to questions 1 and 2 are “No: the Board only hears what the staff want them to hear, so anything a member of the public submits goes straight into the trash.”
  • The answer to question 3 is: “None.”
  • The answers to questions 4-6 are “Never. If you could easily attend meetings or see what information is given to the Board, you’d know we throw your correspondence into the trash.”

If the answers had been anything else, there would have been no reason to withhold them!

So, given that Hill wasn’t going to answer my questions, can you figure out the point of sending me a letter by certified mail, as opposed to simply never answering them at all? You can  read Charles Hill’s letter  to me here.

By the way, the OBPE goes through a lot of Executive Directors: they’ve had three in the last six months. Becky Ecklund would answer questions truthfully once I sent the same email twice. Randy Harnisch would promise to answer them, but never did. And Hill uses certified mail to refuse to answer them.

So if the Board is being kept in the dark by its own staff, and the Board is going through one Executive Director after another, who is in charge? Who sets policy and makes decisions? The Board also has a high turnover — they lost two members in the first half of 2015 alone. Do any of them know what’s really going on? I have no idea.

A Sad Disappointment

Woman swooning after receiving a letter from the Oregon Board of Psychologist EXaminersBut back to the certified letter. Here’s the deal: When someone receives a certified letter from the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners, they’re supposed to realize that the opening salvo of an “investigation” is a certified letter. So the recipient is supposed to go, “Oh, I am so frightened! The Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners is after me! Oh, woe! What ever am I do do? This is … THE END!”

If you’ve listened to the audio clip above, you know that my natural reaction to the OBPE’s behavior is a little different from that.

I never expected much from these people, but every week brings new information that lowers my opinion even further. I can hardly wait to see what next week brings!

A Tale of Two Licensing Boards

But wait, there’s more!

As it happens, Charles Hill wears two hats: he’s the executive director of the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners, and he’s also the executive director of the Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists (OBLPCT).

So I sent him a letter asking him the same questions quoted above, but this time it was about the policies of the OBLPCT, rather than the OBPE. He responded promptly by email, answering all my questions.

This is a delightful example of a “natural experiment.” Same sender, same recipient, same questions — different answers. Because most of the parameters are held constant, I can form the following conclusions with confidence:

  • The OBPE has a policy of refusing to answer questions from the public. The OBLPCT has a policy of answering questions.
  • The OBPE has a policy of inconveniencing and even intimidating members of the public. The OBLPCT has no such policy.

What’s the Next Step?

It’s clear that the OBPE requires adult supervision, and in fact they are supervised more closely than most boards. Not that it seems to help. For example, an attorney is present at all their meetings. The same attorney, Warren Foote, is the attorney for the Oregon Medical Board, but he doesn’t attend all their meetings.

It’s too late to introduce new legislation for the 2015 session, but I don’t think I’ll have the slightest difficulty in finding sponsors in both parties for legislation defanging the OBPE in the next session. Probably by combining the OBPE and the OBLPCT, so the psychologists will be a minority group in larger board. The three professions (psychologists, counselors, and family therapists) have identical legal definitions, for all practical purposes, so it’s pointless to have more than one board anyway.

In the meantime, I’m looking for quicker methods, since the OBPE is getting on my nerves.

One thought on “An Epic Fail: How Not To Intimidate Someone

  1. The “answer v. no answer” may reflect secretarial differences rather than any agency policy? One secretary sends out BS answers and the other asks what to send and is told “refusal”.

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