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Kingsley v. District of Columbia Dept. of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs

May 1, 1995

SANDRA A. KINGSLEY, PETITIONER,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AND REGULATORY AFFAIRS, BOARD OF ACCOUNTANCY, RESPONDENT.



Petition for Review of a Decision of the Board of Accountancy, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

Before Ferren, Terry, and Steadman, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ferren

FERREN, Associate Judge: Petitioner appeals a decision of the District of Columbia Board of Accountancy denying her application for a "certificate," D.C. Code § 2-107 (k) (1994 Repl.), and a "permit," id. § 2-114 (a) (1994 Repl.), to practice as a certified public accountant (CPA) in the District. She based her application on a request for waiver of the usual examination and, in lieu thereof, asked for an "endorsement" (and thus acceptance in the District) of her Maryland CPA certificate. See id. § 2-107 (k). Petitioner contends the Board abused its discretion (1) by imposing an "attest function" experience requirement not found in the statute or regulations governing issuance of "permits" to practice public accounting, D.C. Code § 2-114 (a); 17 DCMR § 2504.4 (1990); (2) by ruling that, in any event, the attest function requirement can be met only by persons experienced in "public accounting practice" (a kind of experience petitioner admittedly did not have); and (3) by considering only two years of petitioner's nearly 20-year accounting experience.

We cannot ascertain from the Board's findings and Conclusions whether the Board, in ruling that petitioner did not meet the work experience requirements for a "permit," denied her application on the ground that (A) as a matter of law, no CPA from another jurisdiction who lacks experience in "public accounting practice" can qualify for "endorsement" of a CPA certificate under § 2-107 (k) and for a "permit" under § 2-114 (a), or instead ruled on the narrower basis that (B) a licensed CPA, without public accounting experience, is not necessarily precluded from receiving an endorsed certificate and a related permit, but that petitioner's particular accounting experience is insufficient nonetheless.

If the former is true - if the Board denied petitioner's application as a matter of law for lack of public accounting experience - then there are serious questions whether that limitation is arbitrary and capricious, see D.C. Code § 1-1510 (a)(3)(A) (1992 Repl.), in view of regulations that appear to recognize the acceptability of "private or governmental employment," as well as "public accounting practice," to meet the required work experience. See 17 DCMR §§ 2504.2-3.

If, on the other hand, the reason for denial is petitioner's particular accounting experience, then there are serious questions whether the Board, in considering only her two-year employment experience since attaining her Maryland CPA certificate, was arbitrary and capricious in declining to evaluate her application in light of all her accounting experience, or at least her experience since attainment of her bac -calaureate degree - especially if a demonstration of "attest function" experience was required.

Accordingly, we must remand the case to the Board for further proceedings and clarification.

I.

Petitioner, Sandra A. Kingsley, a resident of Silver Spring, Maryland, applied to the Board on December 4, 1990 for a certificate to practice accounting in the District of Columbia by "endorsement" of her Maryland CPA certificate, see D.C. Code § 2-107 (k), and for a related "permit" to do so, see id. § 2-114 (a). *fn1 Petitioner had received a bachelor of science de -gree with a major in accounting from the University of Maryland in May 1988 and had been licensed as a CPA in Maryland since June 1990. *fn2 Petitioner also received a Virginia CPA license by reciprocity based on her Maryland license.

In her application, petitioner stated that she had been a Marriott Corporation employee since April 1976; that she had begun working at Marriott as an entry level accountant; that she had been promoted to accounts manager in 1980; and that she had received promotion to a controller's position in 1986. Petitioner submitted an academic transcript and three character references in addition to a certificate of experience written by a Marriott division vice president, certifying that petitioner had over 1,000 hours of full-time accounting experience in operational audits.

The Board mailed petitioner a notice of intent to deny her application on the ground that she had failed to show that she had met both the 500 hour accounting experience requirement in 17 DCMR § 2504.4 and the general experience requirements of D.C. Code § 2-114 (a). Petitioner requested a hearing to contest the Board's proposed decision.

At the hearing, on November 3, 1992, petitioner testified that she had worked for almost 20 years in the accounting field *fn3 and that she was a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, as well as the Maryland and Virginia Associations of Certified Public Accountants. Considering petitioner's accounting experience between June 19, 1990 (when petitioner had been licensed as a CPA in Maryland) and November 3, 1992 (the date of the hearing), *fn4 the Board found that petitioner's work experience was "not in character and variety substantially equivalent to accounting experience gained in public accounting practice," and that it did not involve "applying generally accepted accounting auditing standards so as to be able to issue an independent report in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles." Finding of Fact No. 10. The Board specifically found that petitioner did not have any experience in the "attest function," i.e.,

in the conduct of an examination in accordance with generally accepted auditing procedures culminating in the issuance of a report in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles while maintaining adherence to the independent standard.

Finding of Fact No. 8. Concluding, therefore, that petitioner did not meet the experience requirements of D.C. Code § 2-114 (a) and of 17 DCMR § 2504.4, the Board denied her application. Petitioner appeals the Board's decision.

II.

A.

Where an administrative agency is delegated broad authority to administer a statutory scheme, this court defers to the agency's interpretation of the statute if reasonable. See Smith v. District of Columbia Dep't of Employment Servs., 548 A.2d 95, 97 (D.C. 1988) (citation omitted). The agency's interpretation, therefore, is binding on the court unless it conflicts with the plain meaning of the statute or its legislative history, or is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. See Nova Univ. ...


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