Accountability Needed in Division of Professional Licensure ~ IN YOUR CORNER SENATOR with DIANA DIZOGLIO

Oct. 2021

Hello Valley Patriot Readers,

The state Division of Professional Licensure (DPL) licenses and regulates more than 580,000 individuals, businesses, and schools to engage in over 150 trades and professions in Massachusetts, from plumbers and electricians to psychologists and optometrists. Its mission is supposed to be to protect the public through the establishment of a thorough licensing process, including criminal and sex offender background checks.

According to a recent investigation conducted by the State Auditor’s Office, however, it is all too clear DPL has fallen woefully short in ensuring applicants are sufficiently vetted.

Based on both the audit and additional reporting by the Boston Globe, we now know of applicants who had the most serious of convictions and yet were cleared by DPL’s boards and commissions, including numerous sex offenders, a man convicted of stabbing someone to death and then running him over, and another individual who served seven years for attempted kidnapping and attempted murder.

According to the audit, DPL failed to perform criminal record checks on more than two-thirds of applicants granted licenses. For nearly half of these applicants, there was also no indication of a sex offender record check. Both of these reviews are required under the law.

And this isn’t a new issue. In 2019, following a Boston Globe investigation highlighting the lack of required checks, DPL claimed sex offenders were granted licenses due to technical glitches and that all would be resolved. But the Auditor’s new investigation reveals these issues continued to persist moving forward.

While DPL has admitted to its failings and is in the midst of an overhaul, including the hiring of new staff and creation of a new background checks unit, it is imperative they be held accountable and their corrective actions be done so in the most transparent of fashions. They can start by adopting the recommendations presented in the Auditor’s report that are designed to ensure the safety of Massachusetts residents, including more comprehensive background checks and the requiring of such checks upon license renewal, not just issuance.

The main tenet of professional licensing is, above all else, to protect the public. Massachusetts residents deserve a department that lives up to this basic standard.

If you have any questions on this or any other issue, please feel free to contact me anytime via email at Diana.Dizoglio@masenate.gov or phone at 978-984-7747.

Yours in service,

Diana ◊

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