Cosmetology school and individual Iowa professionals face sanctions

By: - November 10, 2022 5:03 pm

The Davenport campus of Iowa’s Capri College. (Photo via Google Earth)

State licensing boards are pursuing action against an Iowa cosmetology school accused of professional incompetence and negligence, as well as individuals accused of ethical violations or fraud.

In one of the cases, the Iowa Board of Behavioral Science has permanently barred Rhonda Lettington of Decorah from working as a mental health counselor, accusing her of unethical conduct related to client boundaries and confidentiality, as well as violations related to recordkeeping.

The board alleged that for six years, Lettington worked as a therapist for an individual with whom she had previously “worked closely” for several years. After the client died, Lettington allegedly revealed confidential information about the client to others. It was later determined she had billed the client for services on multiple occasions although it could not be substantiated that the services were ever provided.

With regard to a second client, Lettington was accused of revealing to others confidential information about the client, and with initiating communications with the client in a public setting that revealed the two had a therapeutic relationship.

No other details of Lettington’s alleged conduct were made public by the board. Pursuant to a settlement agreement with the board, Lettington has agreed to give up her license. As part of the agreement, she is permanently barred from seeking reinstatement of her license.

Iowa court records indicate that after the October 2020 death of an Allamakee County woman, Lettington, who was running Circle of Life Counseling, filed a claim against the woman’s estate for $76,898 – which was more than half the total value of the estate.

At the time, Lettington told the probate court that for six years, she provided the woman with counseling on a weekly – and, at times, almost daily – basis for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The cost of the 1,200 counseling sessions totaled more than $99,000, Lettington claimed, and only $22,000 of that amount was paid by the woman or an insurer.

A fiduciary for the estate rejected the claim. Lettington challenged that, but before a court hearing on the issue could be scheduled, Lettington’s attorney filed papers with the court saying the claim had been satisfied in some way.

It’s not known whether the court case is related to any of the allegations made by the board.

More licensing board actions:

Other licensed practitioners recently charged or sanctioned by the state include:

Capri College, which has locations in Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Waterloo. The school has been charged by the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences with professional incompetence and negligence in the practice of the profession. No other information about the charges or the underlying allegations has been made public by the board. A detailed, 2 ½-page list of the factual allegations against the college has been redacted from public view.

A disciplinary hearing, which may be closed to the public, is scheduled for Nov. 21. College officials said Thursday they were unable to answer questions about the charges.

Joshua Blunt of Bettendorf, who was recently charged by the Iowa Board of Chiropractic with improper billing procedures and recordkeeping. The board has not made public any other information about the case.

However, Iowa court records show that in October 2020, Blunt was charged by police with using the unique provider identification numbers of two other chiropractors, without their knowledge or consent. He was accused of using the numbers to electronically submit fraudulent patient-treatment claims to the insurer Wellmark in order to collect reimbursement for non-existent treatments. As a result of those actions, police alleged, Blunt collected at least $20,778 from Wellmark.

Authorities also alleged that Blunt purchased a travel-trailer for $8,500 and then reported the purchase price to the Scott County Treasurer’s Office as $1 in order to avoid paying $425 in registration fees. He was charged with identity theft, forgery, first-degree theft, insurance fraud and fraudulent practices.

In June 2022, the first three charges were dismissed pursuant to a plea agreement with Scott County prosecutors. In August, Blunt was given a deferred sentence and judgment on the charges of insurance fraud and fraudulent practices.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.