Complaints under formal investigation may lead to possible enforcement action. When and how that happens depends on the outcome of the investigation and if an investigation reveals evidence of a material violation of the laws or rules enforced by the PDC.
Respondents may have an opportunity to stipulate to facts, violations and penalty. If PDC staff reaches a stipulation with the respondent, it will be presented to the commission for approval.
If a stipulation or settlement is not reached, PDC staff may issue a notice of administrative charges and schedule the matter before the commission as an enforcement matter in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act. PDC staff informs both complainants and respondents of the results of investigations.
The enforcement action could be heard before the full commission hearing or a single presiding officer. A full commission hearing involves all the commission members, with an assistant attorney general representing PDC staff, and the maximum civil penalty could be $10,000 per violation. At a brief adjudicative hearing, the commission chair or designee hears cases involving alleged violations that are not material in nature, and the maximum civil penalty is $1,000.
The commission has the authority to waive a penalty for a first-time actual violation. A second actual violation of the same requirement by the same person will result in a civil penalty being assessed, and any additional violations of the same requirement shall result in progressive penalties (WAC 390-37-182). The commission may suspend any portion of an assessed penalty contingent on future compliance with this chapter.
The commission – or the executive director with concurrence of the commission chair or vice chair – also may refer a matter to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution in court. In these circumstances, the respondent and complainant are provided notice of any open public hearing or proceeding scheduled before the commission to discuss such a referral.