Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced that Daphne Singingtree of Eugene, executive director of the Oregon School of Midwifery (OSM), will significantly change the way in which she operates her school under an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) filed today in Marion County Circuit Court. The agreement admits no law violation.
"Students from all over the United States and Canada paid up to $13,000 in advanced tuition to OSM without being told that only a small percentage of students ever graduate from the program," Myers said. "In addition, students were never told that the school's future accreditation was in question."
Department of Justice investigators, representing the financial fraud/consumer protection and charitable activities sections, found violations of both the Unlawful Trade Practices Act and the Oregon Nonprofit Laws.
Consumer Protection investigators found that Singingtree misrepresented the school's accreditation by the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC) by describing the accreditation "imminent" when in truth the school was only pre-accredited. Ultimately, MEAC denied accreditation and the defendant is appealing the decision.
Of the dozens of enrolled students, Singingtree could name only two students as having successfully completed the program. The low graduation rate was caused in part by the school's inability to provide local opportunities for students to attend the 40 births necessary to graduate. In Oregon, students must pass the NARM examination and attend 50 births in order to be licensed as Direct Entry Midwives (DEM).
Investigation by the Charitable Activities staff found Singingtree's record keeping and accounting practices to be so inadequate that it was impossible to determine where the school's finances ended and the defendant's began. Records showed the school would pay the monthly balance on Singingtree's credit card and on several occasions, OSM also paid for her daughters' credit cards. Singingtree also is known as Daphne Duncan and Daphne Ward.
Oregon law requires charities to maintain three-member governing boards. The Oregon School of Midwifery only had two members, Singingtree and her ex-roommate, who had not spoken to her for at least two years but had given her a signed proxy to vote on his behalf.
Under the Assurance, Singingtree must comply with the consumer protection and charitable activities laws and provide full tuition refunds to students who were scheduled to complete their first year at OSM this summer. However, if OSM becomes fully accredited by MEAC by September 2002, these students will only received a refund calculated on a prorated basis.
Students, who have withdrawn from the program since January 1, 1998 and requested refunds, will receive payments on a prorated basis. Singingtree each year must dedicate seven percent of the school's gross revenue toward making the refunds.
Students, who do not receive a full refund by January 1, 2002, will be paid nine percent interest a year on the outstanding balance.
New students enrolling in OSM only must pay for the two-year academic portion of their training and not for the clinical training portion. Students will only pay one term's tuition in advance of the training.
OSM also must clearly and conspicuously display the school's detailed tuition refund policy in the student handbook along with the number of OSM students who are enrolled in the program, the number of students who have successfully completed the program, the length of time it actually took the graduating students to complete the program, the number of graduates who have successfully taken the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM) examination and those graduates who have been licensed as Direct Entry Midwives in Oregon. This information also must appear on the school's web sites.
Within the next 60 days, OSM must appoint three individuals unrelated to the Executive Director to serve on the Board of Directors. The Board will approve a job description and salary for the Executive Director position and be responsible for all future bookkeeping functions.
Consumers wanting more detailed information on the settlement may call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only), toll-free at 1-877-877-9392 or the Justice Charitable Activities section at (503) 229-5725. Information is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Students interested in midwifery training in Oregon may call the Oregon Board of Direct Entry Midwifery at (503) 378-8667, ext. 4321. The Board is online at www.hlo.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org