Opinion:Bales v. State ex. rel. Okla. Real Estate Appraiser Board, 2021 OK CIV APP 18
Subject matter:Administrative Law
Date Decided:December 3, 2020 (Mandate Issued May 19, 2021)
Trial Court:Tulsa County (Nightingale, J.)
Route to this Court:Appeal of trial court’s affirming decision of Oklahoma Real Estate Appraiser Board (the “Board”)
Facts:Appellants are certified appraisers in Oklahoma. One Appellant, Mr. Bales, served as the Trainee Supervisor for the other Appellant, Mr. Pearce. Appellants admitted to the Board that they altered reports completed by Mr. Pearce during his training period (and that were delivered to actual appraisal clients in their pre-altered form) before submitting the reports to the Board for the Board’s review as a part of Mr. Pearce’s application to become a certified appraiser. 
Appellants entered into a stipulation of facts before the Board wherein the Appellants admitted to “fluffing up” appraisals that Mr. Pearce completed during his training period before the reports were provided to the Board for its review. Appellants admitted that the modifications to the reports were done with the objective of bolstering Mr. Pearce’s application for an appraiser’s license. The Board found these acts to be in violation of 59 O.S. Supp. 2015 §§ 858-723(C)(1) and 858-723(C)(5) of the Oklahoma Certified Real Estate Appraisers Act and disciplined the Appellants. The discipline imposed included, among other things, suspension of their licenses for 30 days. Appellants appealed the Board’s decision to the District Court for Tulsa County, which affirmed. The Appellants then appealed the District Court’s decision. 
Standard of Review:Pursuant to the Oklahoma Administrative Procedures Act (OAPA), final agency orders will be affirmed if the record contains substantial evidence in support of the facts upon which the decision is based, and if the order is otherwise free of error. Great weight is to be accorded to the expertise of the administrative agency and a presumption of validity attaches to the exercise of expertise when the agency’s action is reviewed by the judiciary. 
Issues of statutory interpretation are reviewed de novo. 
Analysis:The stipulated facts and testimony before the Board form a basis of substantial evidence in support of the Board’s conclusions that the Appellants violated the OAPA. Furthermore, the discipline imposed by the Board was not arbitrary and capricious or outside of its discretion. The Board’s choice of discipline will not be disturbed by a court absent a manifest abuse of the agency’s discretion. 
Vote:3-0. Opinion by Barnes, P.J. Concur: Rapp and Fisher, JJ. 
Other: Appellants initially sought cert, then dismissed their Petition for Cert.