This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Laura Chigozini Iroabuchi,
Commissioner of Human Services,
Human Services Department
File No. 900055-A
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Stephanie A. Riley, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Dietzen, Judge; and Collins, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Relator challenges the decision of the Department of Human Services (DHS), which disqualified her from holding any position allowing direct contact with persons who receive services from DHS-licensed programs, arguing that (a) she has accepted full responsibility for her underlying crime and served four months in an adult correction facility; (b) hers was not a crime against persons and she does not otherwise have a criminal background; and (c) with this disqualification she is effectively disabled from completing her nursing education and becoming a nurse. We affirm the DHS’s decision.
In January 2006, relator Laura
Chigozini Iroabuchi was
convicted of gross-misdemeanor theft-by-swindle under Minn. Stat.
§ 609.52.1 (2004) for stealing merchandise from the retail store where she
worked part-time. Iroabuchi was enrolled
in a practical-nursing program at
The DHS conducted a background study, including a risk-of-harm assessment under Minn. Stat. § 245C.16, subd. 1(b) (2006), and determined that Iroabuchi’s conviction created a disqualifying characteristic. The DHS notified Iroabuchi, Anoka Tech, Good Samaritan, and Lake Ridge of Iroabuchi’s disqualification from “any position allowing direct contact with, or access to, persons receiving services from facilities licensed by the Department of Human Services and the Minnesota Department of Health.”
Iroabuchi applied for reconsideration of the disqualification in February 2006. Iroabuchi did not dispute her conviction; instead, she challenged the DHS’s finding that she posed a risk of harm. The DHS conducted a second risk-of-harm assessment under Minn. Stat. § 245C.22, subd. 4(b) (2006), and reaffirmed the disqualification. On May 22, 2006, Iroabuchi was notified that her disqualification would not be set aside. The DHS’s letter explained that, after considering all statutorily required factors, Iroabuchi’s reconsideration request was denied because she failed to demonstrate that she did not pose a risk of harm. Two factors were detailed as determinative:
1. The vulnerability of the people for whom you wish to provide direct contact services. In your request for reconsideration you indicated that you provide care to persons who need assistance with activities of daily living. These individuals would be vulnerable to theft.
2. It has been less than one year since your conviction for the disqualifying offense. This type of offense is a disqualification for ten years from the time you have completed your sentence, including probation. You have not yet successfully completed your probationary period. It is therefore too soon to conclude that you have changed your attitude and behavior.
This certiorari appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
Because no contested-case hearing was
held, this certiorari appeal of the DHS’s decision is not brought under the
Administrative Procedure Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 14.63-.69 (2006). See
Rodne v. Comm’r of Human Servs., 547 N.W.2d 440, 444 (
Upon reconsideration of an applicant’s
disqualification, the applicant bears the burden of submitting sufficient
evidence to show that she or he does not pose a risk of harm to any person
(8) any other information relevant to reconsideration.
Minn. Stat. § 245C.22, subd. 4(b) (2006). Any of these factors may be determinative of the DHS’s decision, and the preeminent consideration is the safety of the persons served in the program from which the applicant was disqualified. Minn. Stat. § 245C.22, subd. 3 (2006).
The DHS reviewed each of these factors during its reconsideration of Iroabuchi’s disqualification. In particular, the DHS noted that the criminal act was intentional, caused moderate damage, and occurred recently. Favorable to Iroabuchi, the DHS also noted that (a) the conviction was isolated, (b) the victim, a retail store, was not particularly vulnerable, (c) Iroabuchi accepted responsibility, and (d) there was little similarity between the victim and the program clients.
On appeal to this court, Iroabuchi argues that it is “unfair to prevent [her] from completing [her] education . . . for a conviction which [she] has already served [her] time and learned a valuable lesson from and corrected [her] conduct and behavior.” She pleads on “bended knees” for her disqualifying characteristic to be set aside, explaining that she fully accepted responsibility and “punished [herself] immensely, asked for forgiveness from the store, [her] family and friends and sought repentance in church.” Finally, Iroabuchi argues that becoming a nurse has been a life-long goal and that she has no other convictions on her record.
In denying Iroabuchi’s reconsideration request, the DHS observed that the disqualifying criminal conduct occurred so recently that relator had “not yet successfully completed [her] probationary period” and concluded that it was simply too soon to determine if Iroabuchi had changed her attitude and behavior. Moreover, the DHS reflected on its concern for the people whom Iroabuchi wishes to serve and their vulnerability to theft. Based on this concern, which the DHS acknowledged as the preeminent factor in refusing to set aside the disqualification, and the recency of Iroabuchi’s disqualifying offense, both of which are supported by the record, the decision of the DHS was not arbitrary, unreasonable, or otherwise erroneous as a matter of law.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
Respondent contends that