The West Virginia Board of Licensed Dietitians was created by the Legislature in 1996 to protect the public. The title Licensed Dietitian (LD) is bestowed by the Board. The Board consists of five members; four dietitians and one lay member. This is the first Preliminary Performance Review of the Board. It identifies five issues, which are briefly described below.
Issue Area 1: Regulation Not Needed to Protect the Public
Regulation of professions is to be imposed only when necessary for public protection. However, sunset and sunrise reviews from other states, a Westlaw search of appeals cases, the Board's inventory of public inquiries, and examples provided by the American Dietetic Association provide little or no evidence of public risk which the Board, as it currently exists, could prevent. In West Virginia, regulation can be evaded at will by choosing not to use the titles of "dietitian" or "licensed dietitian." Further, the State has no practical disciplinary powers upon the 87% of licensees who are also Registered Dietitians (RD). Should an RD's LD title be revoked, the individual could continue to practice under her/his RD title. The criteria to be an RD and LD do not differ so the West Virginia credential adds no value. Finally, other protections such as federal guidelines exist to safeguard the public. The review has found no compelling evidence to support the continued licensure of this profession. The Legislature should consider terminating the Board of Dietitians.
Issue Area 2: The Board is Inaccessible to the Public
The Board has no listings published in telephone books around the State, cannot be located through directory assistance, is not available in the State Capitol Telephone Directory, has no office space open to the public and has no Internet site. Except for the Capitol Assistance line the Board's telephone number and address are unpublished and unavailable. The regulatory function of the Board may have been compromised by its inaccessibility; the Board has received no complaints against licensed dietitians. To promote public accessibility the telephone number and address should be published in the Kanawha-Putnam directory. In July, the Board obtained an 800 number devoted solely to the Board as well as a dedicated FAX line.
Issue Area 3: The Board Has Inconsistently Complied With the Open Meetings Law
The Open Meetings law requires all public agencies to conduct their proceedings in an open and public manner. Board records indicate it convened 21 times to conduct business. However, the Administrative Law Division of the Secretary of State's Office found only ten open meeting notices filed. The Board was aware of the requirement by its eighth meeting, on September 26, 1997. Compliance from that point forward was inconsistent but improved. Not filing the notices could result in a court voiding some actions of the Board.
Issue Area 4: Board Requires Payment of Fees by Cashier's Check or Money Order
Until August of this year, licensees were required to pay fees with cashier's checks or money orders. Personal checks were not accepted. As a result a license could have been denied or suspended pending receipt of payment by cashier's check or money order. During this time an individual would have been violating statute for continuing to practice under the protected titles. The State accepts personal checks for payment of income taxes and other license fees. Further, statute allows the Board to assess fines and make collection efforts. Personal checks should be accepted for payment of fees. To prevent issuance of licenses without sufficient funds licenses should not be issued until payment clears.
Issue Area 5: Board Has Abdicated Continuing Education Responsibilities to the Professional Association
In the general provisions applicable to Chapter 30 boards, §30-1-7a, boards are to establish continuing education requirements that include course content, course approval, hours required and reporting periods. The Board is not meeting its obligation to establish course content or approve courses. The Board is allowing the Association to approve continuing education hours and set course content and standards. The Board was not able to provide the Legislative Auditor with the standards maintained by the national association in proxy for the West Virginia Board. The provision for the Association to approve continuing education and set standards allows a group not sovereign to West Virginia to determine what is sufficient for the West Virginia public. Proof of continuing education should be validated by the Board and the Board should establish and maintain its own continuing course content and course approval standards as required by statute.