Archive

Uncategorized

Last night, the Colorado House passed SB-133 and is on its way to the Governor to become law and allow Colorado to join over 45 other states that think the profession deserves regulation.  I, for one, am glad this bill passed and this eternal debate will finally end.  But before I fade into the woodwork and get on with my life and profession…I’d like to offer a few parting comments.

As expected, the overwhelming majority of those that have replied to my posts here on this blog have been against licensing.  It wasn’t surprising.  Even still, I have enjoyed reading the comments and believe that every person that took the time to do so believes in their heart that they were justified in their stance.  Even though I support licensing, I actually agreed with some of the points made by opponents of licensing.

This blog has been viewed almost 1,000 times (much more than I expected). While the 50+ comments have come from less than a dozen people, I think the number of “views” tells me that many more people were following the conversation.  For those that declined to comment, I hope these posts made you think about the issue and caused you to go read SB-133  for yourself and make your own mind up.

SB-133 leaves a lot in the hands of DORA, such as determining how many hours you need to qualify for a Level II License, how large the bond will be, and (of course) what the fees will be to obtain the license.  I urge the opponents of licensing to now take all of that energy and participate in the rule-making hearings that DORA will hold.  Think of this bill as a large lump of clay that has been formed into the general shape of a bowl…but is now sitting on the potter’s wheel, waiting to be spun into the final product.  You still represent the left hand of the potter and can help shape the future of licensing in Colorado.  Please don’t just sit on the sidelines and bitch. Get involved and stay involved. Its your profession. 

I said in an early post that I have friends on both sides of this issue.  Probably more on the “pro” side, but certainly some that were against.  I’ve talked to both sides on the phone and through email, never mentioning this blog.  But I’ve chosen to remain anonymous because I wanted to be free to say what I wanted without jeopardizing any of those friendships.  Notice the consistent use of the term, “friend”.  I don’t have any “enemies” on either side of this issue, and I want to keep it that way.  Life isn’t about making enemies.  As the old saying goes, personal politics have ruined more than a few friendships.  As far as my true identity goes, I’m sure it will always be the topic of speculation. But it doesn’t matter who I am.  Really, it doesn’t.

Oh, wait. One last thing.  Sorry, I can’t resist.  O’block, here’s a link to Writing For Dummies.  It costs about $13.  If that price doesn’t put you out of business, your clients will appreciate the improvement.

Thanks to all that viewed and.or participated.

FS

Now that SB-133 is on its way to the Colorado House of Representatives, I’m wondering where the primary opponents stand on the bill in its current form.

In a recent email sent to Senator Linda Newell by Rick Johnson (President of CSPI), there was an indication that he and his group might be warming up to the idea of mandatory licensing, or at least considering support of the original bill introduced in February:  In his 3/18/14 letter to Senator Newell, Johnson wrote:

For what’s it worth I think CSPI members and I might be able to go along with the level 1 and level 2 private investigator concept. A background, jurisprudence test and bond we might be able to live with. We do not, under any circumstances go along with the hours or years requirement of our profession to be determined after the bill becomes law. This makes absolutely no sense, and smells of a back room deal already made. 

The “back room deal” that he refers to is an amendment that happened at the end of the Senate Judiciary Committee that changed the bill to a measure that looked nothing like the original bill.  Since none of that amendment’s language was discussed during the stakeholders meetings (which Johnson and others from his group participated in), I have to agree with him that it indeed smelled of special interests.  

But that amendment was stripped at the very next committee (Senate Finance). PPIAC Chairman Chris Bray recently posted on their website that PPIAC did not favor the amendment, and gave kudos to Senator Newell for returning the bill to its original form.

On the heels of the return to the original bill, coupled with the letter to Senator Newell, I wonder if the two sides have found something they can agree upon.  Obviously, both sides saw the danger in the “agency amendment”.  Obviously, both sides had concern with language that threatened to keep newer investigators out of the industry.

Johnson did give himself an “out” in the letter to Senator Newell by using the word “might” on two occasions, and Johnson is well known for having taken both sides on the issue of mandatory licensing.  He once was a champion of mandatory licensing (before and during his tenure as President of PPIAC).  But after he left PPIAC and formed CSPI, he suddenly became a staunch and vocal opponent.

Before I make my final comment, let me bring up a bit of history.  If you step back and look at the numerous attempts to bring licensing back to Colorado (since it was struck down in the mid-70s), no PPIAC-led initiative has even made it through the first committee without being killed. In my opinion, PPIAC never had the political clout or willpower to do what it took to be successful.  But in the past five years, the momentum has definitely shifted. Not only did PPIAC get their Voluntary bill past the first committee (a surprise to many)..they actually got the thing all the way through the General Assembly and signed by the governor!  And last year, PPIAC got a mandatory bill all the way to the last days of the General Session before a surprise vote killed it in a committee that would have sent it to the House for a final vote.  So opponents of mandatory licensing dodged a huge bullet there, as a bill to create mandatory regulation (which they had no say in) was looming large.

But now, here we are. Johnson and his group have indicated that he might be able to support the original language. And PPIAC has certainly made it clear that they support the original language.  Seems to me that together, they could probably control the direction of mandatory regulation and hold the state accountable for introducing rules that harm small business.  They also have the opportunity to work together and urge the state to adopt rules that would benefit the industry. If they could only quit butting heads long enough to let the dizziness subside and think clearly.

Or will Johnson and others just return to their standard position of “oppose, oppose, oppose”.  I guess we’ll see.

Well, it looks as if the bill to license PIs is back on track after a lot of wrangling in the Senate and is on its way to the House in much the same form as it was introduced in February.  The “agency” language was stripped (along with the higher fees, increased oversight by DORA and the language that threatened to keep new PIs out of the profession).

There was a comment on an earlier post of mine (by Rick Johnson) that the agency language was just another example of how PPIAC likes to dangle carrots and then switch.  Its my understanding that it was PPIAC took the lead in opposing the agency language and returning the bill to its original form.  If that’s the case, I think PPIAC leadership should be congratulated on sticking to their guns and making sure the bill that was introduced into the Senate is what will be sent to the House…and hopefully the Governor.  Instead of accusing PPIAC of a bait and switch, there should have been an extreme amount of outcry over how special interest groups and individuals were hijacking this bill to fit their own situation.

Let’s face it – that agency amendment was just a result of someone’s (or a small group’s) personal agenda.  But the net result of that amendment was was extremely threatening to not only agencies, but to single operators as well.  As I said in an earlier post, it would have given DORA the authority to mandate how you supervised employees and it would have kept a lot of people from being in business, since DORA had the authority to decide who could or couldn’t be “an agency”.  Kudos to those that listened to the small operator and returned the bill to its original form.

I watched the debate on the Senate floor online.  It absolutely kills me how Senator Balmer and others seem to get their facts wrong.  Senator Balmer was going on about how “ten or so” private investigators we re pushing this bill, and that they represent 1% of the total PIs in Colorado.  Simple math says that he believes, then, that there are 1,000 PIs is Colorado.  And that the VAST MAJORITY of PIs in Colorado are ex-law enforcement and military. But what really got me was the fact that he voted in favor of mandatory licensing last year.  Kinda reminds me of someone else that championed mandatory regulation in years past, but suddenly is against.

So I return to a position of support for the bill.  I was leaning no with that agency BS.  I had even sent an email to my senator expressing concern.  But getting back to the original bill is a good thing and I think it returns to addressing the issue of protecting the public without too much regulation. It keeps the criminals out and requires that you pass a test to make sure everyone understands the laws with respect to operating as a PI.  There is a lot being said by opponents about how we don’t need regulation to “protect the public”, and opponents say there are criminal laws and civil remedies to answer that issue.  But we pass laws all the time to not only address what has happened…but also as to what is possible or probable.  Inexperienced PIs that think its a good idea to track their subjects using GPS devices are (I believe) just ignorant to the law.  Requiring them to pass a test that demonstrates they know it’s illegal to do so (in most cases) will prevent incidents (like the one in Weld County a couple of years ago) from happening in the first place. Lets assume that the guy that did that just didn’t understand the legalities.  Had he been aware, he probably would have avoided the criminal charges that were filed against him.  So a bill that requires a test is a good thing, especially for those that are new to the profession.

I don’t know for sure who was leading the fight to get the bill back to what was introduced.  I suspect it was probably PPIAC Chairman Chris Bray and President Steve Davis, but I have no direct knowledge. They’re a logical choice since they are at the top of the PPIAC. But regardless of who was responsible, they have my thanks for leading the fight to keep the fees reasonable, championing the little guy, and doing the hard work of bringing mandatory regulation to Colorado.

F.S.

What the hell has happened to this bill?  At the outset, it was a standard regulatory measure that made sure that every honest person had an opportunity at being a private investigator, and every private investigator was going to have to pass a background check and get a bond.  Pretty simple. 

Now, it has gone through a metamorphosis and contains confusing language and threatens every one-person shop in Colorado.  .  

First, it leaves it up to some bureaucrat to decide if I have enough experience to be an agency. THE DIRECTOR SHALL DETERMINE, BY RULE, THE AMOUNT AND TYPE OF EXPERIENCE, WHICH MAY INCLUDE POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION THAT A SOLE PROPRIETOR AGENCY APPLICANT OR DESIGNATED MANAGER OF AN AGENCY APPLICANT MUST HAVE TO SATISFY THE EXPERIENCE REQUIREMENTS OF PARAGRAPH (a) OF THIS SUBSECTION (1)

So what if the Director decides I don’t have enough experience?  I believe the bill says that I need to go work for someone else (an agency) so I can earn my stripes.  

Add to that, THE DIRECTOR, BY RULE, MAY ESTABLISH THE SUPERVISORY RESPONSIBILITIES OF AN AGENCY OVER ITS REGISTERED PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR EMPLOYEES.  So the government is going to be able to tell me how I should supervise my own employees?  What if the Director decides that any investigator with less than 6000 hours of experience must be directly supervised by an investigator with more than 6,000 hours?  You just doubled the expense of my investigation.  What am I going to tell my client? That I need to have 2 investigators working this case? Can I bill for that? Will my client even stand for it? This language alone could make my life as a business owner miserable. “Sorry, kid.  Can’t take you on and show you the ropes because Colorado says I gotta hold your hand at every step and I can’t afford that”.  

This language smells of big companies and special interests.  Big companies wanting to crush little guys and make sure that all roads lead to the doorstep of an “agency”.  I really, really hate to agree with the anti-license crowd that believes regulation will “put them out of business”, but this has some real issues in it.  If it is left up to the director as to who can or can’t be an Agency…some people will close their doors.  Good people.  

Agencies will tell you that this is about costs.  It can’t just be about costs.  An agency that has enough business to warrant having 10 investigators on their payroll is billing out a ton annually.  Think about this:  

An agency that has 10 PIs is probably paying each one of them an average of $20/hr.  But I guarantee you the agency is billing them out at $40.  And even if they only keep those PIs working 20 hours a week on cases (keeping them at “part time” allows them to avoid having to pay certain benefits to the employee), that comes to 200 billable hours a week.  That’s $400,000 in annual revenue.  If you’re keeping them full time, then you’re approaching a million in revenue each year.  And you can’t afford $3,000? 

Take any size agency.  The cost of licensing fees when adding an investigator is minuscule compared to what that individual investigator is expected to bring in profit to the company.  If the added investigator isn’t going to bring revenue, then why hire the person in the first place?  That’s business 101.  You don’t hire employees unless you have enough business to warrant it.   

I suspect the real reason for this language is to put the big agencies in firm control over who can get work in Colorado and who can’t. 

Who, exactly, is driving this departure from the original bill?  I’m told that NCISS had a heavy hand in it.  But that doesn’t make any sense. I thought NCISS was an organization that concerns itself with federal legislation.  Why would they even care? So it can’t be just NCISS.  It looks to me that this is just a small group of companies or individuals that are being too cheap to understand the overall benefit of a mandatory license law in Colorado.  

F. 

I just noticed that I got called out by Ryan Ross’ blogger for keeping my true identity a secret.

If Ryan Ross and his blogger want to raise the issue of anonymity, I’ll raise the same issue with a guy they decided to spend two whole blogs on.  

Let’s talk about a long-time opponent of licensing, Bob O’Block.  Just who is this guy and who is this organization he “leads”?  I think I heard him boasting a membership of anywhere from 40 to 70 private investigators.  Hmmm.  I can’t seem to find any evidence that his organization actually exists, except on paper.  He calls it the Colorado Independent Investigators Association.  Has anybody every seen CIIA’s website?  I don’t seem to be able to find it.  Maybe I’m just not a good PI.  And so far, the only names that I have associated with CIIA have been those that are listed on corporate documents (Anthony “Tony” Mastin and Robert Waldon O’Block) and Daril Cinquanta (who identified himself as a CIIA member in a Denver Biz Journal article back in 2002:

(http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2002/02/04/story8.html?page=all).

As a matter of fact, in that same bizjournal article, Mastin is reported as saying the whole reason that CIIA was formed was to fight licensing and PPIAC.   But as far as I can tell, they don’t meet, they don’t publish information and they certainly don’t post a membership roster.

As much as I currently disagree with most of what Rick Johnson currently says (he does have a few good points), at least his Colorado Society of Private Investigators has a website where they proudly post their members.  And so does PPIAC.  And so does every single other professional organization I can think of.  But not the super-secret CIIA.  

I challenge CIIA to post a membership roster so we can see who is behind the opposition.  Could it be that the vast majority of his “members” would not pass a background check?  Could it be that his members exist only in his head? 

I think I’ll go to the Secretary of State’s website and pay my $50 to form an organization called PIs For Licensure.  I have a membership of 300.  All of my members believe in regulation, background checks, competency testing and insurance.

Don’t believe me?  Just check out our website.  If you can find it.

Fred

As I sat there and observed the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on SB133, I was amazed at the lack of decorum exhibited by the opponents to the bill.  

Rick Johnson, was the worst, with his combative and disrespectful rants aimed at the senators on the committee, referring to them as “you people”.  One moment he was making flippant remarks that were (I suppose) meant to endear him to the lawmakers, and then he would suddenly lash out in anger at them.  He made loud comments from the gallery, completely out of order, and was simply embarrassing. He is the undisputed leader of the opposition, and he showed little or no class in the way he represented himself or his constituents.  The madder and more indignant he got, the higher his voice got.  I thought at one time I could actually see the veins in his big neck.  And when Senator Johnston started questioning him, I couldn’t believe how poorly he defended his opposition to the bill.

I had to choke down my laughter over Bob O’Block’s contention that a license would “put a guy out of business” that makes $5,000 a year part time.  I’m going to tell you that if you told me I had to pay $500 but could make $5,000 part time, I’d be all in.  You know, I’ve done about as much research as I can, and don’t see where O’Block’s “group” exists anywhere but in his own mind.  He says he represents about 45 former law enforcement professionals.  After looking at the way he conducts himself, the way he dresses, the way he presents to a panel…I’m just trying to imagine the group of rag-tag private investigators that would call him their “leader”.  His response to the senator’s questions were confusing and made no sense.  

The guy that had to leave the hearing to attend his grand-daughter’s birthday party was also embarrassing.  Does he not see that every person on that panel saw through his “aw shucks” demeanor?  Does he really expect us to believe that every single person in his association has hung a shingle as a private investigator? He represents (probably) about a dozen former federal agents that are enjoying life with a pension after having devoted a career to protecting and serving (for which I will say I’m grateful).  But to say you can’t afford a few hundred bucks for a license?  

The guy that got up there and said he charged three time what everybody else does, yet can’t afford to show up in proper attire, was humorous.  I’m sure he knew this hearing was scheduled and if he was intent on making an impression as a guy that charges $200+ an hour, he sure didn’t make that with me.  

Here’s what made me the maddest.  The total lack of understanding by the opponents about the issue of cost.  Opponent after opponent lined up and bitched about the $1,000 license fee.  This fee structure is based upon the last bill, which is going away (regardless of the outcome of SB133).  So to talk about it is absolutely worthless.    

You know, this bill has some issues.  But the opponents did absolutely noting to explain to me why we shouldn’t regulate private investigators.  

So to the opponents, this is my question:  

Why SHOULDN’T we regulate?  You’ve given me nothing to agree with you on.  Don’t talk to me about how it will put you out of business.  Its hogwash and you know it.  Don’t tell me there’s no demonstrable harm, because its been demonstrated.  Give me a real reason NOT to regulate.  

There sure are a lot of people outside of Colorado watching what’s going on in the Centennial State these days.

A blogger up in Washington has now weighed in.  But he falls short on a few points…mainly because he has no first-hand knowledge of what’s going on in Colorado.  In his first paragraph, he says, “I felt like it was quietly taking place”.  Maybe if he were sitting in the Rocky Mountains instead of the Cascades, he would feel differently.  The truth is that folks (for and against) have been meeting over the issue for months (and have been arguing for years) and there as been a lot of effort to bring mandatory licensing to Colorado.  There has also been a lot of effort to kill licensing altogether.  But as someone who is actually here in Colorado, I can promise this:  Nothing here is happening “quietly”.

The Washington blogger then goes on to say that he believes that the voluntary licensing program was a gateway to mandatory licensing.  That just shows how uninformed he is.  The voluntary licensing program was never intended to be a gateway to mandatory, otherwise it would have been written into the law.  Makes me wonder who he has been talking to. There’s only one group that believes that, and its the group that opposes any kind of PI license.

I will agree with the Washington blogger that licensing has but one purpose, and that is to provide some consumer protection.  That’s the only reason to have it.

I’ll also agree with him that this concept of having different levels of license is a bad idea.  It’s more than bad.  It’s idiotic.  It is plain silly to think that just because a PI has more “experience” than the next PI, he (or she) is any better.  I’m not sure who (or what group) is driving this whole “experience” factor, but they ought to have their heads examined. The more I read that portion of SB133, I just shake my head.

But what I most agree with is how the blogger says that “…I think that those who had influence on this bill were thinking a bit more about themselves and that reflects in the different levels of licensing.”   Yes, there is a LOT of personal politics going on here. But did you seriously think there wouldn’t be?  Its personal on all sides of this issue.

I understand why the blogger feels the need to pontificate from Washington.  Blogging is great for exposure and web ranking (SEO).  And, after all, we all have the right of free speech (although I intentionally write this under an assumed name because of the grief I will get from several sides).

But the point of this article is to say this:  If you aren’t a Colorado PI and actually involved in this issue, you should maybe just stick to your own local politics and quit trying to tell other people how to run their own affairs.  Because you have no idea what’s going on in Colorado unless you’re here.  And by giving advice on things that you only have half the information on…you’re not helping.