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Hundreds of board decisions under a cloud due to lack of quorum

Some 465 votes by four Massachusetts health-licensing boards are under a cloud because they were taken without a quorum from January 2008 to May 2013, according to a November 29 report from the state public health department, published in the Boston Globe.

Based on an audit, the improper votes affected vital issues whether to investigate complaints and which disciplinary action should be taken against professionals charged with misconduct. Several license applications were also affected by the decisions made without a quorum.

Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, a government watchdog group called the matter “disappointing,” noting that boards cannot make choices without a quorum since “it is a basic principle of good government.”

The audit’s findings mean that a matter such as disciplinary action taken by the boards against licensees will be challengeable. The Department of Health (DPH) sent letters earlier this year to 38 licensees who were negatively affected by votes. The letters offered the licensees a review of the matter a second time.

However, the report notes that the department declined to contact members that filed complaints, which were dismissed indecorously, “nor did it revisit votes in which boards awarded licenses without a proper quorum.”

The Secretary of State’s office stated that it received 14 complaints about the DPH’s response to public records requests in just the past 12 months. The office was also asserted that the department ignored many of the requests, which is a violation of the law.

Shawn A. Williams, the lawyer who oversees the Secretary of State’s public records division called DPH’s handling of public record requests “unacceptable.”

Read more here.