Department of Justice Puts a Stop to Psychology Board Pettiness

OBPE can never resist doing the wrong thing.The Oregon Department of Justice just stopped another act of pettiness by the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners (OBPE), as described by University of Oregon professor Bill Harbaugh in his widely read UO Matters blog. Harbaugh is investigating the Psychology Board’s handling of the UO counseling records scandal, where the Psychology Board plans to deliver a mere slap on the wrist to Shelly Kerr, a licensed psychologist.

Shelly Kerr
Teflon Psychologist Shelly Kerr.

Kerr is accused of copying confidential records of a gang-rape victim without the knowledge or consent of the victim or her counselor, and delivering them to the University’s attorneys. For this, the Psychology Board proposes a slap on the wrist.

Where the Board once, for example, gave Christian Wolff a one-year suspension and a $10,000 fine for merely abbreviating “Psychologist Associate” to “PsyA,”* they calculate the value of betraying a rape victim at a $5,000 fine, and no suspension.** As you can imagine, this case is receiving a lot of attention.

* Of course, Christian Wolffs’ transgression wasn’t really that he abbreviated “Psychologist Associate” to “PsyA.”  No, his real transgression is that he has attended board meetings for far longer than any of the board members, and his expertise makes them look bad.

** It turns out that things are even worse than I realized at first. The University is paying Kerr’s fine for her—as the Board knew all along, meaning they constructed her “penalty” to avoid penalizing her. (Must be nice to have friends in low places.) Read my blog post on Kerr’s fake penalties.

Charles Hill, Director Oregon psychology board
Charles Hill, executive director, OBPE

When Harbaugh attempted to get some information out of the OBPE, they resisted. First, they ignored Harbaugh’s request for three weeks, then added additional delay by demanding $2.75 before copying the relevant documents. Other departments routinely produce such copies for free to journalists like Harbaugh.

OBPE attorney Warren Foote
OBPE attorney Warren Foote

And, never ones to miss a chance to be unprofessional, the OBPE was snotty about this in word as well as in deed. Harbaugh reproduces their correspondence in full in this blog.

When the Department of Justice was alerted to this nonsense, it came down on the side of Harbaugh, demanding that the OBPE cough up the documents at no charge within seven days. The Department of Justice is charging the OBPE $500 for this intervention.

LaRee Felton
OBPE Operations Manager LaRee Felton

Sadly, this will be paid by the department, not the three employees involved: Executive Director Charles Hill, attorney Warren Foote, and Operations Manager LaRee Felton.

2 thoughts on “Department of Justice Puts a Stop to Psychology Board Pettiness

  1. I see your point and definitely agree the penalties are unfair. But, wouldn’t you agree that making up a credential that so closely mirrors a doctoral-level credential (the Psy.A.) is a problem?

    1. Yekaterina,

      I don’t see it. The person in question has a Psychologist Associate’s license. He didn’t “make up a credential” — the Psychologist Associate license is embodied in Oregon statute. All he did was abbreviate it. To anyone in the biz, “Psy.A” obviously means “psychologist associate.” To mere mortals, the abbreviations after a practitioner’s name are just word salad and don’t count.

      Nor does a doctoral degree mean anything to most consumers. To most people, “doctor” means “physician.” If you’re not a physician, you’re not a real doctor, even if you’re allowed to call yourself one, the way optometrists and psychologists are.

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