Citation Program Questions & Answers
Effective March 1, 2015, a Citation Program has been added to the Professional Standards processes available to REALTORS® and members of the public. A citation is a much quicker means of reporting potentially unethical conduct when there is clear, strong, and convincing evidence to support the allegation. It also contains the ability to file anonymously. The key is that there is clear, strong, and convincing evidence attached to the citation complaint. Over the last few months, members have asked questions and expressed concerns about this program. Following are some of the questions received along with answers.
Why did the MIBOR Board of Directors adopt a citation program?
For a number of years, MIBOR members have expressed reluctance to report unethical conduct for a number of reasons. This program is designed to remove barriers to reporting unethical conduct.The process takes too long, they have to sit across the table from the other REALTOR®, the perception that nothing happens. The use of a citation will provide a quicker means of resolving a complaint in specific circumstances when there is clear, strong, and convincing proof of a violation. The Board directed staff to research citation programs and come back to them with a recommendation.
How long have Citation Programs been in use?
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) formally adopted the use of citations at its national convention in November. Prior to that, NAR had authorized the California State Association to conduct a pilot program. Other states have also been in various stages of adopting these programs, including Virginia, Illinois, Oklahoma.
Can a citation always take the place of an ethics complaint?
No. There is a specific list of violations that can be addressed with a citation, and only with clear, strong and convincing evidence attached. The majority of complaints are better heard in a formal ethics hearing where the parties will testify and present evidence. If clear, strong, and convincing evidence is not attached to the citation complaint, it will not be processed.
Who issues the citations?
The Grievance Committees will act as the citation panel. When a citation complaint is filed, a copy will be sent to the REALTOR® named as the respondent, and a copy will be sent to his/her managing broker. The Grievance Committee will review the citation and decide whether potentially unethical conduct has occurred and whether the conduct is included on the list of citable offenses. If citable, a fine will be assessed and forwarded to the Respondent along with a summary of the citation.
What are the fines associated with a citation?
$150 for the first citation; $250 for the second citation; and $500 for the third citation. No more than three citations may be issued in a three year period. The fine must be paid within twenty days of the citation.
What happens if I receive a citation and I don’t agree with it?A REALTOR® has the right to request an ethics hearing to challenge the citation. This request must be filed within twenty days of issuance of the citation.
Is there potential for overly vigilant individuals to overuse the citation program?
Remember that only three citations may be issued in a three year period. In addition, staff will be monitoring the program closely and reporting to the Board of Directors.
What if the citation complaint was filed anonymously and I request a hearing to dispute it? Don’t I have the right to face my accuser?
If a citation is issued due to an anonymous citation complaint, the Grievance Committee will assign a member(s) to act as complainant in a hearing. Remember that a citation complaint cannot go forward unless there is clear, strong, and convincing evidence of a violation. In addition, if a hearing takes place and a REALTOR® feels there has been a due process violation, the REALTOR® always has the right to appeal the decision to the MIBOR Board of Directors. The Grievance Committee has had the ability to act as complainant in hearings for many years. In addition, MIBOR members have had the ability to anonymously report potential violations in the form of a Problem Prevention Letter sent to the Respondent as long as there was proof of the potential violation to attach to the letter. In past years, numbers of Problem Prevention Letters sent by Professional Staff have been as high as 74 to 177 letters in a year’s time. While it is an excellent educational tool, the Problem Prevention Letter does not have a fine associated with it.
Due Process Concerns
MIBOR respects the right of members to have due process afforded to them in all of the Professional Standards processes. Where violations of the Code of Ethics are concerned, members are always afforded the right to appeal a decision. This is true with a citation complaint, as well. A member may challenge the citation by requesting a formal hearing, and also has the right to appeal the decision of the ethics hearing panel to the Board of Directors.
To access the citation complaint, click here.
For more information on the citation program, contact Tracy Nierste.