No Design Legislation

Opposing interior design legislation everywhere

Help for Victims of Florida’s Witch Hunt

Help for victims of Florida’s WITCH HUNT!

Interior Design Protection Council
Legal assistance!

Over the last year, many designers who live or provide services in Florida have contacted me for a legal recommendation to understand and defend against the Board of Architecture and Interior Design (BOAID) disciplinary actions (a.k.a. “the witch hunt”).  Regrettably, I did not personally know of an attorney who had expertise in regulatory proceedings and was unable to give a referral.

Well, I am delighted to tell you that is no longer the case!  I have been contact by a Florida attorney with many years of extensive experience in interior design regulatory laws and procedure.  She knows Statute 481 and the DBPR inside and out.

And she wants to help! She does not agree with the BOAID’s very broad interpretation of the statute.  She is offering representation to persons targeted by the BOAID on a cost-only basis and instead will seek legal fees via statute from BOAID (which really should be held liable for paying fees for defense of their unfair “enforcement” activities).

As you may be aware, most people accused of unlicensed interior design activity either resolve it by attending the “probable cause” hearings and signing an affidavit admitting guilt and accepting cease-and-desist orders, or they hold out until after an administrative complaint is filed and then settle, paying a fine of something less than the $5000 threatened by the Board, even though they do not agree than they have violated any laws.

We believe more harm than good may come from the accused attending these probable cause proceedings without expert, experienced legal representation.  First, the cease-and-desist orders that the board routinely issues in lieu of a finding of probable cause are not subject to dispute at a hearing through the Florida Administrative Procedures Act (see section 455.228, F.S.) and future “violation” of a C&D can lead to a heavier second penalty.  Although the designers who do not appear will most likely be issued an administrative complaint, the complaint certainly can be challenged. The BOAID would have to prove their accusations at an administrative hearing through clear and convincing evidence.   How many victims of this witch hunt “knowingly” violated the statute?  The BOAID ignores that crucial element.

Moreover, if an “improvident finding of probable cause” is found in response to the complaint, it is possible that the defendant could require that the agency/board pay attorneys fees and costs (see section 57.111, F.S.).   Interestingly, if you perform a search on the Division of Administrative Hearings website (www.doah.state.fl.us) which is where disputed complaints would be adjudicated, you will see that the BOAID has not actually gone to hearing on an administrative complaint against a designer since the 1990s, and then the cases involved only disputed licensure denials.  Instead, the board routinely “helps” people into compliance with some pretty stiff fines and costs. Or they “help” them become compliant by telling them they can avoid a fine if they just sign an affidavit admitting guilt and promising not to do it again.  What they don’t tell them is that the admission of guilt becomes public domain, and any client or potential client using an internet search engine (like Google) will see their Florida record for years, perhaps a lifetime.  This result of the witch hunt is just one more way that the Florida cartel places “unlicensed” designers at an unfair competitive disadvantage.

Since there are not many attorneys willing to actually challenge them, the BOAID makes a ton of money this way.  Most lawyers without administrative agency experience are not familiar with regulatory law or procedures, so even when respondents have legal representation, some of the professional boards are able to get away with very iffy procedural practices.

This intimidation must STOP NOW!
If you or someone you know has been issued a cease and desist, please tell them to contact me at pmorrow@IDPCinfo.org and attach a copy of the cease and desist order, and I will be happy to answer any questions and put them in touch with this attorney.

IDPC is pleased to be involved in putting yet one more nail in IDAF’s coffin.  Click here to read how we’ve helped the Florida design community over the last year.

Please show your support for IDPC’s work by becoming a member or by making a donation of your choice.

Best regards,

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Patti Morrow
Executive Director
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July 1, 2009 Posted by | Florida | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment