An order can be reached in one of three ways:
Stipulated Orders (Settlement Agreements)
A stipulated agreement may occur
after the educator has been charged by the Commission. The educator may “stipulate” to agree with the Commission’s findings of fact related to the case, and agrees to the proposed sanction. Educators may enter into a stipulated agreement in order to avoid going to a hearing regarding the facts in their case. The educator signals their agreement by signing the document prior to submission to the Commission. These agreements are drafted either by a TSPC Legal Liaison or our DOJ Counsel. The Executive Director reviews the proposed stipulated order and agrees to its form and substance prior to its submission to the educator (and the educator’s attorney). If the educator agrees and signs the stipulated agreement, then the proposed settlement is given to the Commission to review and approval.
Note: The Commission does not have to agree with the proposed order. The language of the order is clear that if the Commission does not support the proposed order; (most likely the proposed sanction), the Commission will direct the Executive Director to let the educator know. The educator most likely will agree to a “lesser” sanction; but the issue is usually whether the Commission supports a harsher sanction. The Executive Director and the Legal Liaison or the DOJ Counsel start with the Commission’s proposed sanction when attempting to get a settlement agreement (stipulated order). If it appears that there is new mitigating information, or a slightly reduced sanction which essentially has the same effect is possible with the educator, the Executive Director may propose this reduced sanction to the Commission. If, after the Commission rejects the proposed stipulated order (settlement agreement), the educator then has the opportunity to continue to an administrative hearing.
Default Orders are entered when the educator is notified of the Commission’s intent to charge the educator with misconduct (e.g., the Commission voted in Executive Session to charge the educator on the basis of the Investigation Report and supporting evidence the Commission has reviewed); and the educator fails to respond to the Commission in a timely manner. Following a Commission meeting, a “Notice of Opportunity for Hearing” is prepared for the educator indicating the Commission’s charges of misconduct and the basis for those charges. Each educator has 21 days in which to request a hearing with an independent administrative law judge regarding their opposition to the Commission’s proposed charges and sanctions. If the educator does not respond in 21 days, the Commission is allowed to enter a final Default Order with the facts established by the Commission and the proposed sanction. If the educator fails to respond to the Notice of Opportunity for a Hearing to request a hearing, the educator loses their right to defend themself against the Commission’s proposed sanction. The Commission has authorized the Executive Director to sign Default Orders, and they are presented to the Commission as “information only.” In other words, they become “official” when the Executive Director signs them. This saves Commission review time.
* If a Notice of Opportunity is issued in the case of a Denial of Reinstatement the educator is given 60 days in which to request a hearing.
Proposed Orders following an Administrative Hearing
If the educator requests a hearing after receiving the Notice of Opportunity for Hearing, a notice is sent to the Office of Administrative Hearings and a hearing is scheduled. This often takes several months based on the backlog of hearings at the OAH offices. The hearing is private unless the educator requests that it be public. The agency is represented by the DOJ Counsel and the agency’s Legal Liaison. The educator is most often represented by an attorney, but not always. The agency (TSPC) presents its case and the educator presents their defense. Following the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who conducted the hearing, writes a proposed order for the Commission’s consideration. The Commission is
not required to accept the proposed order, but there are strict legal procedures that must be followed if the Commission proposes to reject the ALJ’s proposed order. The Commission often does not agree with the ALJ’s Proposed Order.
Informal Letters of Reproval
While not technically a Commission “order”, these are final drafts of Informal Letters of Reproval that have been signed by the educator and the Executive Director. They most closely resemble stipulated agreements. The Commission may not “impose” an Information Letter of Reproval, because the educator must agree to the proposal. If the educator fails to respond, the Executive Director will enter a Default Order for a Reprimand against the educator’s license(s). The Commission may disagree with the Informal Letter of Reproval. If the Commission supports the proposed Informal Letter of Reproval, the Executive Director will sign and date the letter making it “official.” An educator may disagree with the Informal Letter of Reproval and request a hearing in order to defend him or herself. [See, Informal Letter of Reproval, above under “Sanctions” for more information.]