Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division
from the Circuit Court of St. Charles County Honorable Jon A.
B. Sullivan, Judge.
Brown (Brown) appeals from the decision of the Missouri State
Board of Accountancy (Board) placing her license on probation
for three years, as well as requiring her to complete a
supplementary ethics course and an increased yearly
continuing professional education (CPE) requirement. We
reverse and remand.
and Procedural Background
holds a certificate and license to practice accountancy in
Missouri. In order to renew her license, Brown is required to
complete no less than 120 hours of CPE every three-year
period, with a minimum of 20 hours completed every year.
License holders are required to maintain records of their CPE
hours and must regularly submit those records to the Board as
a part of the license renewal. License holders are also
subject to audit by the Board of their claimed CPE hours.
Should the Board contact a license holder and request a
formal response, they are required to respond to such
communications by registered or certified mail within 30
Brown suffered a number of personal tragedies, including the
unexpected deaths of family members. By the end of 2011,
Brown had logged no CPE hours. Brown contacted the Board,
explained her circumstances, and requested a waiver for her
yearly CPE requirements for 2011, as well as a reduction in
the CPE requirements from 2009-2011. In response, Samantha
Green, an attorney representing the Board, sent a letter to
Brown stating her CPE submission had been accepted for the
2009-2011 period and the matter had been closed. The letter
stated Brown would be subject to another audit during the
next reporting period.
December 2014, Brown received a letter from Thomas DeGroodt,
the executive director of the Board. This letter informed
Brown her CPE submissions for the 2011-2013 period had also
been accepted, and she met the Board's CPE requirements
for that period.
2015, Brown received another letter from Thomas DeGroodt.
This letter stated the Board had opened a complaint against
Brown because she failed an audit of her 2011, 2012, 2013,
and 2014 CPE requirements. This letter also stated she had
failed to respond to an earlier letter sent in May 2015. The
Board's letter warned Brown she was to respond to the
letter by July 16, 2015, or she would be in violation of
Board rules. The record of this case contains a letter from
Brown in response to the Board's June 2015 letter. This
letter is dated July 16, 2015; however, nothing in the record
indicates if or when the Board received it. In this letter,
Brown states she failed to respond to the May 2015 letter
from the Board because she set it aside and forgot about it.
Brown also reminded the Board she had previously sent all the
requested CPE information for the period in question, at
which time the Board told Brown it was accepting her hours.
February 2016, the Board filed a formal complaint against
Brown with the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission
(AHC). This complaint alleged two rule violations by Brown.
The first count alleged Brown had failed to complete her
required CPE hours for 2011, 2012, and 2013. The complaint
alleged Brown had filed zero hours in 2011, 23 hours in 2012,
and 79 hours in 2013, for a total of 102 CPE hours for the
period. The complaint claimed this made her deficient both
for the minimum requirement of 2011 and the total requirement
for that three-year period. The second count alleged Brown
had violated Board rules by failing to respond to the letter
sent by the Board in June 2015.
receiving the complaint, the AHC attempted to serve notice on
Brown at her last known address by certified mail. This
attempt was unsuccessful, and the mail was returned as
"unclaimed." In March 2016, the Board attempted to
serve Brown personally via private process server. This too
was unsuccessful. Finally, on the Board's motion, the AHC
served notice on Brown via publication between July and
September 2016. Brown never responded, and the Board motioned
for a default decision, which was granted by the AHC in
September 2016. Notice of the default decision was received
by Brown that same month. Brown made no request the default
be set aside, and it became final October 21, 2016.
the default became final, Brown obtained counsel. The Board
and Brown, through counsel, agreed on a date on which to hold
a hearing to determine what, if any, discipline Brown should
face. The disciplinary hearing was held in August 2017. Brown
testified at the hearing and was allowed to introduce several
exhibits into evidence. The exhibits included the
above-mentioned letters Brown received from the Board
informing her that her CPE deficiency from 2011 had been
excused, and her CPE requirements were deemed acceptable for
the 2009-2011 period as well as the 2011-2013 period. Brown
testified she had received a letter in May 2015 warning her
the previously excused CPE deficiencies were the subject of a
possible Board complaint. Brown testified she had attempted
to respond to the letter by calling Samantha Green, attorney
for the Board, several times, but had not responded in
writing as required. When asked why, Brown replied she
attempted to resolve the matter informally because she
believed it must have been a mistake, since the Board had
already accepted her CPE hours. Brown testified she received
the June 2015 letter from the Board on the same subject, and
responded to this letter in writing.
the disciplinary hearing, the Board took the matter under
advisement. Thereafter, the Board issued its Disciplinary
Order placing Brown's license to practice accountancy on
probation for a period of three years, ordering her to take
an ethics course, and increasing her yearly CPE requirements.
The Disciplinary Order contained a section titled Findings of
Fact. This section stated the Board found 1) the Board had
authority to regulate and discipline licensed accountants, 2)
Brown is a licensed accountant, 3) Brown received a default
decision from the AHC, and 4) Brown appeared at the
disciplinary hearing and presented evidence on her behalf.
The Disciplinary Order made no specific mention of any of the
evidence presented at the hearing or how it affected what
discipline the Board imposed on Brown.
appealed the Board's Disciplinary Order to the circuit
court, which affirmed the ...