A hearing addressing accusations that Knutson conducted business without a license and sold pre-need merchandise and services without a permit and out of an unlicensed funeral establishment was held March 9.
An order issued by the board indicated that rather than defend the charges against him, Knutson voluntarily surrendered his license as a funeral director. By surrendering his license, Knutson understood that he is prohibited from practicing mortuary science for up to six months.
In addition, Knutson is required to resolve issues with the Iowa Insurance Division in regards to sale of pre-need funeral services and merchandise without proper licenses. A complaint file remains open with the Iowa Insurance Division, although no order yet has been issued by the department regarding the Knutson case, officials said.
Nicole Bekkum, Iowa Department of Public Health Communications Officer, said Knutson's license expired December 15, 2005, and Knutson failed to renew his license in a timely manner, so it became inactive.
A formal complaint was filed accusing Knutson of repeatedly practicing mortuary science on an inactive license. In addition, Knutson was cited with violating statuatory requirements of the Iowa Insurance Division by selling pre-need funeral services and merchandise without proper permit, and failing to properly place consumer funds in trust, in violation of Iowa Code.
Knutson allegedly performed mortuary science services from Knutson Funeral Chapel, Avoca, which had not been issued an establishment license by the board, a statement of charges said.
On December 26, 2006, the Iowa Insurance Division issued a Cease and Desist Order to Ricky L. Knutson dba Knutson Funeral Chapel and Knutson Family Chapel LLC, finding that Knutson failed to secure an establishment permit and a sales permit. Knutson did not contest the order, which then went into effect January 26, 2007.
The formal statement of charges said, "while the exact number of instances is unknown to the board, the board has also been supplied with information demonstrating respondent's failure to properly place into trust funds received from consumers in connection with pre-arrangements."
Charge statements named three occasions where funds were not secured in trust.
Knutson can have his funeral director's license re-issued after six months should he seek reinstatement and under certain conditions. He must "establish that it is in the public interest to do so and that the base for the surrender no longer exists," the order read.
If the board determines to reinstate Knutson's license, Knutson must comply with existing laws and rules, including the payment of fees and penalties, and satisfaction of applicable education. The board also may impose other terms and conditions, such as only being allowed to perform mortuary science services as an employee of another Iowa-licensed funeral director, or prohibiting pre-need sales.
Knutson has 10 days from the issuance of the order to surrender his license.
Tom Alger, Public Information Officer with the Iowa Insurance Division, said his department's work continues.
"A complaint file is open and the investigation is ongoing," he said. "Our activities tend to be more on the financial side." If any action is taken against Knutson for alleged pre-need sales and failure to place consumer funds in trust, it will be made public through an order at a later date.
In the meantime, anyone who purchased or transferred a pre-need contract with Knutson Funeral Chapel is welcome to contact the Iowa Insurance Division at 1-877-955-1212, to provide information for the investigation, said Alger.