Educating Members About the AASP Code of Ethics, Encouraging Members to Use the Ethics Committee for Ethical Inquiries, and Responding to Allegations of Ethical Violations

1. Policy

  1. It is the policy of AASP that its members maintain high professional and ethical standards. To reinforce this policy, members receive education and regular updates on the Association’s Code of Ethics, are encouraged to contact the AASP Ethics Committee with any questions they have regarding inappropriate conduct within the scope of the Code of Ethics, and are regularly reminded to comport themselves professionally so as to be in compliance with the Association’s Code of Ethics. It is the policy of AASP that the Ethics Committee be primarily an educational arm of the Association.  However, it is important to provide a timely response to concerns about alleged misconduct by AASP members voiced by third parties, as well as provide oversight of member conduct. Individuals who are found in violation of AASP’s Code of Ethics receive sanctions for unethical conduct.

2. Background

  1. AASP has promulgated a Code of Ethics that is available to all members. The Code of Ethics sets forth the standard of professional conduct to which members are expected to adhere. The Ethics Committee is an important educational resource for AASP members and is available to members inquiring about matters of ethical and professional conduct. Neither AASP nor its Ethics Committee has ever been charged with the task of investigating ethical concerns raised by nonmembers that, if true, may constitute a violation of the Code of Ethics. Rather, this investigative task has been left to the appropriate state licensing and regulatory bodies. However, in light of reports of alleged misconduct by AASP members that, if true, constitute a violation of the Association’s Code of Ethics, the Executive Board, in consultation with legal counsel and after obtaining input from the Ethics Committee has the authority to encourage member education about compliance with the AASP Code of Ethics and address third-party concerns and/or charges of misconduct against an AASP member.
     
  2. AASP’s Certification Program includes specific Disciplinary & Complaint policies that apply only to those certified by AASP who violate the AASP Code of Ethics, Council certification rules, requirements, and/or policies (Policy 211, Certification Program Policy Manual).   These policies meet the essential disciplinary standards required by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) – the body that will accredit AASP’s certification program.
     
  3. The remainder of the policy as follows applies only to AASP members who are not currently certified by AASP.

3. Procedures

  1. When accepted for membership in AASP, each new member is provided with a copy of the Code of Ethics, information about the role of the Ethics Committee, and the identities of current Ethics Committee members. The chair of the Ethics Committee will provide the Secretary-Treasurer with the current information to be provided to new members.
     
  2. At least annually, all AASP members will be: advised of the important educational, advisory, and oversight role of the Ethics Committee; encouraged to seek consultation with an Ethics Committee member on questions relating to the Code of Ethics; and will be reminded of the Association’s expectation that members conduct themselves professionally so as to comply with the AASP Code of Ethics.
     
  3. AASP will use appropriate publications, its website, and other appropriate technology to communicate the Association’s expectations regarding compliance with the AASP Code of Ethics to members.
     
  4. In the event a member or non-member brings to the attention of the Association or any of its governing body a written allegation of ethical misconduct against an AASP member, the chair of the Ethics Committee will:

    1. Promptly respond to the complainant reporting the alleged ethical misconduct and encourage him or her to contact the applicable state licensing or regulatory body of the institution of employment as appropriate to report the alleged ethical misconduct.

    2. Advise the complainant that any written statement of the alleged misconduct submitted to AASP, will be maintained in a confidential file at the AASP administrative office.

    3. Advise the complainant that a copy of her/his written statement will be sent to the accused AASP member who will be given the opportunity to provide a written response that would also be placed in the confidential file at the AASP Administration Office. Only the AASP President, the Professional Standards Division Head, and the Ethics Committee will have access to this confidential file.

    4. The AASP Ethics Committee will determine if sanctions are appropriate and will provide sanctioning recommendations to the AASP EBoard.
     

4. Sanctions

  1. Individuals who are found in violation of AASP's Code of Ethics receive sanctions for unethical conduct.
     

5. Purpose of Sanctions

  1. Sanctioning individuals for unethical conduct has four major goals:

    1. To penalize the person in violation

When an individual violates the Code of Ethics there must be consequences associated with that misconduct. Depending on how egregious the misconduct is, the Ethics Committee has a range of sanctions that it can recommend that the AASP EBoard can impose, from less to more punitive depending on the violation and the totality of the facts.

2. To serve as a mechanism to educate and rehabilitate

It is important to provide feedback to individuals who violate the Code of Ethics so that they understand and appreciate exactly how their past conduct was inappropriate, so that it will be less likely to occur again in the future. These measures serve a rehabilitation function.

  1. To protect the public

The welfare of the consumer and the reputation and integrity of the profession must be protected.

  1. To inform other AASP members that the Association enforces its ethical standards and alerts them that there are penalties for engaging in professional misconduct.
     

6. Public Notification

AASP requires the Ethics Committee to publish the types of behaviors that have received sanctions (though not the names of the individual sanctioned) in the AASP Newsletter and on the AASP Website to serve as a means of informing the membership of their ongoing ethical responsibilities and to alert them that there are penalties for engaging in professional misconduct.

7. Types of Sanctions the Ethics Committee Can Recommend for the AASP EBoard to Impose

The Ethics Committee has a range of sanctions it can recommend be imposed by the AASP EBoard when individuals are found in violation of one or more provisions of the Code of Ethics; generally, the more egregious the misconduct, the harsher the sanction.

1. Cease and Desist Letter

In addition to the sanctions identified above, the Ethics Committee can recommend that the EBoard also instruct an individual to cease and desist from any practice or conduct found to be in violation of the Code of Ethics. The letter essentially advises the individual against continuing a particular course of conduct and may require specific affirmative actions designed to comply with the letter, including written confirmation of compliance. Failure to comply with a cease and desist letter is, in itself, a violation of the Code of Ethics and may result in additional sanctions. The recommendation of issuance of a cease and desist letter requires a majority vote of the members of the Ethics Committee present and voting to be forwarded to the AASP EBoard, and a majority vote of the EBoard members present and voting to be applied.

  1. Reprimand

The sanction of Reprimand is confidential and imposed in cases where unethical conduct is of a minor nature. A Reprimand is disclosed only to the person found in violation and to the individual who originally filed the complaint (Complainant). Any further unauthorized disclosure of the sanction of Reprimand is, itself, a violation of the Code of Ethics. The recommendation of sanction of Reprimand requires a majority vote of the members of the Ethics Committee present and voting to be forwarded to the AASP EBoard, and a majority vote of the EBoard members present and voting to be applied.

  1. Censure

The sanction of Censure is essentially a public reprimand. The violation is published to the full membership in the AASP Newsletter and on the AASP Website in a manner that identifies the individual in violation, his or her city/state of residence, and the principles and rules of the Code of Ethics violated. When a sanction of Censure is imposed, notice of the ethics violation may also be sent to, among others, any state agency that provides a license to the individual and to any other professional organization the individual is a member of that enforces a code of ethics or code of professional conduct. The recommendation of sanction of Censure requires a majority vote of the members of the Ethics Committee present and voting to be forwarded to the AASP EBoard, and a majority vote of the EBoard members present and voting to be applied.

  1. Suspension

The Ethics Committee can recommend that the EBoard impose the sanction of Suspension of AASP membership in lieu of Revocation.   The recommendation of sanction of Suspension requires a majority vote of the members of the Ethics Committee present and voting to be forwarded to the AASP EBoard, and a majority vote of the EBoard members present and voting to be applied. The sanction is usually intended to be employed for short periods of time (e.g., 6 months).

  1. Revocation

For cases of egregious misconduct, the Ethics Committee can recommend that the AASP EBoard revoke the individual's AASP membership for a period of years, up to life. The recommendation of sanction of Revocation requires a majority vote of the members of the Ethics Committee present and voting to be forwarded to the AASP EBoard, and a majority vote of the EBoard members present and voting to be applied. Notice of this sanction to the AASP membership and other entities is the same as with the sanction of Censure.

After the period of revocation has expired, in order for the individual to seek reinstatement of AASP membership and/or certification a petition must be made to the AASP EBoard and the AASP EBoard must approve reinstatement by a majority vote. In petitioning for reinstatement, the individual has the burden of demonstrating that conditions that led to the revocation have been rectified and that, upon reinstatement, the individual will abide by the Code of Ethics. The individual must also satisfy all membership requirements that are in effect at the time of the AASP EBoard Reinstatement Order.

  1. Withholding

The Ethics Committee can recommend that the EBoard impose the sanction of Withholding of AASP membership in cases where an applicant for membership is found in violation of misconduct.  The EBoard cannot revoke what the applicant does not yet have, but the Ethics Committee can recommend that the EBoard impose the sanction of Withholding of membership for a period of years up to life. The recommendation of sanction of Withholding requires a majority vote of the members of the Ethics Committee present and voting to be forwarded to the AASP EBoard, and a majority vote of the EBoard members present and voting to be applied.

Appeal Procedures

AASP members who had their AASP membership suspended or revoked for violations of the AASP Code of Ethical Principles and Standards have the right to appeal this decision to the AASP Executive Board (EBoard).  Please click here to review the appeal procedures.

approved by the AASP E-Board on 8/15/17
approved by AASP Fellows on 10/20/17

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