A social worker’s conviction for grand theft for charging $48,533 to her employer credit card for personal purchases was “substantially related” to the qualifications, functions, or duties of her profession, and sufficient basis for discipline of her license, the Court of Appeal of California, Fifth Appellate District, held September 25 in an unpublished opinion (Torre v. Board of Behavioral Sciences, Department of Consumer Affairs).
In the case, licensed clinical social worker Carol Ann Dela Torre was clinical director of a non-profit child welfare agency, where between 1996 and 2001 she incurred $48,533 in charges for personal expenses on her corporate credit card. Dela Torre reimbursed the agency after a demand by the board of directors, but in 2008 pled no contest to misdemeanor grand theft. The state Board of Behavioral Sciences first placed her on probation for two years with various conditions imposed, but a few months later the board sought suspension or revocation of Torre’s license.
Despite other evidence of Torre’s professional competence and evidence that she was sincere, credible, contrite, and remorseful, the ALJ concluded that Torre was convicted of a crime that was “substantially related to the qualifications, functions and duties of an LCSW,” and the evidence “did not support appellant’s contention that she was fully rehabilitated and that no discipline should be imposed.”
In the end, the board ordered that Torre’s license be revoked, the revocation stayed, and a probationary license issued for three years on certain stated conditions.
In her appeal, Torre contended that although she had failed to keep track of the personal items she was charging, she had always intended to pay back her agency, and that misdemeanor grand theft was not a crime that evidenced moral turpitude. The court, however, found that the issue of moral turpitude is irrelevant to the statutory standard for discipline of a license under state law, and that Torre’s crime was substantially related to her fitness to practice social work.
“The evidence of clinical competence in this case does not alter the conclusion that appellant’s criminal conduct demonstrated a willingness to use money intended for her clients’ welfare for her personal financial gain. On the facts established in this case, [Torre’s] conviction evidenced to a substantial degree her present or potential unfitness to perform the functions authorized by her license.”
© 2012 Professional Licensing Report, published by ProForum, a non-profit research group, www.plrnet.org. Reprinted by permission.
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