Fire safety professionals provide a critical service to Texas residents. As a result, the Texas Commission on Fire Protection (TFPC) takes allegations of misconduct by fire protection professionals very seriously. Findings of misconduct can lead to a loss of certification and other severe consequences.
If you are a fire safety professional facing potential disciplinary action, you must exercise your rights and protect your career. The fire safety professional defense attorneys at Bertolino, LLP, understand what is at stake and how important these proceedings are to your life. We will be there to guide you throughout your disciplinary proceedings and defend yourself against the allegations you are facing.
Allegations of Misconduct Against Fire Protection Professionals
The TFPC receives and investigates many types of complaints about fire protection professionals. They determine whether to bring disciplinary proceedings against those individuals. They also prosecute individuals and entities who fail inspections or meet minimum standards in the rules and laws that TFPC enforces.
Some of the most common types of misconduct reported among fire protection professionals include:
- Substance abuse on the job
- Sexual misconduct
- Internal department problems
- Sick leave or other leave time abuse
- Overtime scandals
- Negligence or gross misconduct
- Pension mismanagement
Disciplinary Proceedings Before the TFPC
Under 37 Tex. Admin. Code § 401.31, a fire professional may request a preliminary staff conference if the TFPC recommends the assessment of administrative penalties or any other type of disciplinary sanction. TFPC staff will meet with the individual to discuss the alleged violations of rules or laws within 30 days of the request or as soon as practicable.
TFPC staff may propose a consent order with the recommended sanctions under 37 Tex. Admin. Code § 401.41, which the individual may accept or reject. If the individual accepts the consent order, it will go to the TFPC executive director for approval. Approval will result in the entry of the consent order and resolution of the case. A rejection can result in further investigation, negotiations, another consent order, dismissal, or a formal administrative hearing.
If the individual does not accept the agreement, they have 30 days to request a formal administrative hearing through the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).
Due Process Rights in the Event of Suspension or Revocation of Certificate
Suppose the TFPC wishes to suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew the certificate of a fire protection professional. In that case, the professional is also entitled to a hearing before the TFPC or a hearing officer appointed by the TFPC. If the professional wishes to further challenge that decision, they have the right to request a hearing before the SOAH under 37 Tex. Gov. Code 419.0365. SOAH will appoint an impartial SOAH administrative law judge (ALJ) to hear evidence from TFPC and the fire protection professional who is the subject of the complaint.
Following the presentation of evidence, the ALJ will issue a proposal for decision (PFD) to the parties. The parties have 20 days to file exceptions to the PFD and 15 days to file replies after filing the exceptions. The ALJ also will rule on the exceptions. The ALJ’s PFD will then go to the TFPC executive director for adoption as is or with modifications.
Appealing TFPC Decisions
If the individual disagrees with the decision of the TFPC executive director, they may file a motion for rehearing within 20 days or appeal to the TFPC within 30 days of the date that the order becomes final. Additionally, the TFPC may grant an appeal beyond the 30 days from the date of the final order upon good cause shown.
Under 37 Tex. Gov. Code § 401.63, a motion for rehearing is unnecessary before appealing to the TFPC. However, under 37 Tex. Gov. Code § 401.67, a motion for rehearing is a prerequisite to a judicial appeal. Once a motion for rehearing is filed, the other party must file a reply within 30 days. TFPC must take action on the motion for hearing within 45 days; failure of TFPC to take any action results in it being overruled by operation of law.
Potential Sanctions by the TFPC
Under Tex. Gov. Code § 419.036, the TFPC may revoke or suspend a fire protection professional’s certificate, place an individual with a suspended certificate on suspension, or reprimand an individual for violating a law or rule that is applicable to fire protection professionals. If the TFPC chooses to probate a suspension, it may require the individual to do the following:
- Report regularly to the TFPC on matters related to the basis for the probation,
- Limit practice to areas designated by the TFPC, or
- Continue or renew professional education until attaining a degree of skill satisfactory to the TFPC in areas related to the basis for the probation
TFPC also may assess administrative penalties that may not exceed $1,000 for each violation under Tex. Gov. Code § 419.906. This section of the Code also outlines procedures for assessing these administrative penalties, along with the costs of the attorney general’s office in conjunction with those proceedings.
We Will Stand Up for Your Rights Before the Texas Commission on Fire Protection
You can count on the experienced fire safety professional defense lawyers at Bertolino,
LLP, to defend you when you receive notice of disciplinary proceedings against you from
the TFPC. We will investigate the circumstances that led to the disciplinary proceedings
and devise the best defense strategy for your case. Together, we will work to clear your
name and protect your certification and status as a fire safety professional. Call us today at
(512) 515-9518 or contact us online.