License plates and license boards are ubiquitous in Iowa. Both were in the news recently.

The Iowa Department of Transportation announced a new license plate design will be available in 2018 following Iowa State Fair booth and online voting. The winner, “City and Country Reboot,” is a more colorful variation on the current theme.

The new plates will adorn all Iowa vehicles — currently 4.2 million in a state of 3.1 million people — over a 10-year period.

Only slightly less prevalent are state licenses required in various occupations. Iowa has 36 licensing boards. According to a 2015 White House report, Iowa has the highest percentage of adult workers needing a license to practice their profession.

Yet no oversight exists of these boards, which often resemble crony capitalism, keeping out competitors and disregarding problems in the professions.

As for the license plate, the new design is not as bland as Michigan and Illinois or as picturesque as Nevada and North Dakota, while stressing clarity and contrast.

Instead of the silhouette of a farmstead with two silos and a city skyline against a light-blue background that has existed since 1997, the new plates will have a blue top border featuring a city skyline, wind turbine, barn and silo, with a green field along the bottom symbolizing growth.

The winner prevailed over two other plates featuring a contorted eagle and a rural setting produced at no additional cost to taxpayers by an Iowa Department of Transportation graphic artist.

Iowa’s licensing boards literally are out of sight, according to a report earlier this year by the Iowa Office of Ombudsman. Their lack of transparency and accountability, it stated, fosters “lackadaisical investigations, apathetic board members, poor documentation of deliberations, and questionable outcomes.”

They are so secret that the ombudsman’s 17-page report couldn’t reveal the agencies it investigated.

But we do know something about decisions made by the Iowa Board of Chiropractic, an agency with five chiropractors and two lay members seemingly loathe to find any wrongdoing, save for exorcisms, sexual abuse or, preferably, a combination of both.

The Des Moines Register recently reported Elizabeth Kressin of the Chiropractic Arts Clinic in Spencer, who chaired the Iowa Board of Chiropractic from 1999-2002 and was on it from 1999-2002, hasn’t been reprimanded two years after false billing practices resulted in a three-year suspension from Medicaid.

Kressin paid $62,349 to settle a civil claim for violating the federal False Claims Act. She improperly billed for unnecessary procedures and treatment of conditions for children not entitling her to payment — bed wetting, colic and ear infections — over eight years.

Rex Jones, the current board chairman, owns the clinic where Kressin works.

Among other examples of chiropractic board policing:

Spencer chiropractors Douglas Schwartz and Courtney Carmichael-Schwartz of Schwartz Chiropractic Clinic were banned in 2014 from billing Iowa Medicaid for 25 years after being accused of collecting fees for services not provided, including billing patients for “mechanical traction,” when the clinic lacked a mechanical-traction table. They reimbursed Medicaid and a private insurer $38,000. The board suspended Courtney Carmichael-Schwartz for three months, Douglas Schwartz for six months, placed them on probation for less than 20 months and then reinstated them in July without restrictions.

Muscatine chiropractor Rachel Loos was convicted of felony first-degree theft in 2011 for stealing from her Davenport employer. She was suspended 30 days.

In 2014, the board reinstated Winterset chiropractor Stuart Hoven after suspending him twice (2005 and 2013) for fondling the breasts of female patients. He was required to have a female chaperone.

James P. Woods of Bettendorf was accused of claiming to “cure almost everything, including ear conditions, eye conditions, stroke, kidney stones, hernia, tremors, blindness and high blood pressure.” People in his waiting room were invited into the examination room to witness “miracles” performed on other patients. He recommended elderly patients stop taking blood-pressure medications and use vitamins he sold. The board cited him for “knowingly making misleading, deceptive, untrue, or false representations in the practice of the profession,” and “engaging in unethical conduct or practice harmful or detrimental to the public.” But it didn’t penalize him.

In 2015, Charles Manuel of Lamoni made it easy on the board by acknowledging he “performed exorcisms as part of his chiropractic treatment of patients,” “engaged in sexual contact with several patients,” and bartered “sex for services.” He surrendered his license. The board banned him from practicing for 10 years.

The board did revoke Perry chiropractor Daniel Duffy’s license in 2011, but it took seven months after his conviction of assault for masturbating on a patient.

Which raises the question why this licensing board exists if it so reluctant to condemn deviant behavior in the profession and safeguard the public interest? Unfortunately, the ombudsman found that’s not unique among licensing boards.


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