Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Public Data Ferret On KOMO 1000: State Disciplinary Actions Against Professionals

by June 9th, 2010

Yesterday on our regular weekly Public Data Ferret segment on KOMO 1000 radio in Seattle, the subject was how to check out businesses and professionals with state licensing authorities to ensure their legitimacy. Here’s the original Ferret write-up on the Washington State Department of Licensing’s disciplinary actions database. And here’s the audio of the radio segment. The transcript follows.

Brian Calvert: “Before you choose your next realtor, your next driving school, your next notary, you just may just want to do some homework. Matt Rosenberg of joins us, that’s where you can use their feature The Public Data Ferret, and it sounds like the Public Data Ferret came across a link to help us check out some key backgrounds.”

Matt Rosenberg: “That’s right. Good morning Brian and Nancy. Most professional service providers are honest and hard-working, but you want to sidestep the bad eggs. And the State of Washington makes that easier to do. The Department of Licensing online compendium of disciplinary actions tells who’s had their license revoked, or who’s had their license application shelved, for how long and why. They cover several dozen speciality professions, and real estate salespeople, it seems, do the darndest things. I’ll give you some examples here. One in Bellevue concealed convictions for residential burglary and attempted theft. One in Edmonds failed twice to deliver earnest money as required. One in Federal Way sold a property with a history of mold. One in Arlington forged documents and failed to run commissions through her broker. Uh, it goes on and on, and licenses were revoked anywhere from nine months to ten years in these cases. Then we’ve got driving instructors.”

“There were ones in Vancouver, Washington and Port Orchard teaching on suspended driver’s licenses themselves. One in Mount Vernon exceeded the acceptable number of moving violations. Uh, not exactly the folks you want teaching your teen the ropes. And the list goes on. You can check them all out by different categories at this disciplinary actions database that we have linked to at Public Data Ferret.”

Nancy Barrick: “So Matt, we’re talking about information the state has on its books, as opposed to just rumors, and innuendo?”

Matt Rosenberg: “Absolutely. These are findings that they have come to, in many cases, after getting complaints, they check it out. And so, yeah, this is not just your garden variety, people saying things on The Internet. These are reports from the state department of licensing. And we also link to a bunch of other such sources. This one covers certain specialty professions, but we’ve also provided links at the same post so that you can check out the legal qualifications of contractors; the public health records of health care providers and facilities, hotels, motels, farmworker housing and construction projects; and you can also see whether mortgage brokers and other financial services providers pass the smell test. But the bottom line, Nancy and Brian, I think, is before you do business with a company or individual, don’t just Google them. Check out their licensing and disciplinary records online. It’s easier than it used to be, and it’s free.”

Brian Calvert: “Matt, I think what jumps out at me most is that a lot of these business professionals, if you will, even though they’ve been asked by the state to curtail their business dealings, they’re still trying to be in business, even with these blemished records.”

Matt Rosenberg: “That’s exactly right, and public education matters a lot because unfortunately some people will keep on operating even after they’ve been ordered to stop. So that’s really where this kind of info comes in handy.”

Nancy Barrick: “OK. Matt Rosenberg of, and you can check out Public Data Ferret.”

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