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The Denver Botanic Gardens announced this week that it will reorganize its operations, laying off seven employees for budgetary reasons and accepting the resignation of its associate director for operations, Joe Duran, whose position will not be filled. Although the elimination of the positions had nothing to do with employee performance, according to a statement released by the Gardens, Duran and DBG executive director Brinsley Burbidge were part of a recent investigation that revealed problems with the way the organization was being run ("Growing Pains," November 8).

The DBG has vowed to correct some of those problems after a group of former and current employees calling themselves the Friends of Botanic Gardens complained about the two men and charged that senior DBG staff members had allegedly fostered an atmosphere of intimidation, fired employees without cause, forced numerous others to resign, mismanaged finances and interacted inappropriately with female subordinates.

The DBG has also indefinitely postponed plans to seek a $40 million bond initiative for an expansion project in light of the economic downturn; voters rejected a bond issue last week that would have paid for a new city jail.

But the firm that the Gardens hired to help correct its management problems and work with Burbidge to improve his accessibility to employees apparently has some problems of its own -- memory problems.

Somerville Partners, a "nationally known firm that specializes in management practices," according to DBG board president Bruce Alexander, is headed by Kevin Somerville, who was disciplined by the Colorado State Board of Psychologist Examiners in February for passing himself off as a licensed psychologist even though his license had expired on June 30, 1995. According to an explanation for the disciplinary action on the state board's Web site, Somerville "continued to practice psychology and represented himself to the public as a licensed psychologist during the time his Colorado license was not in effect." He received a letter of admonition as a result.

It is a regulatory wrong -- not a criminal or civil wrong -- to practice psychology in this state without an active license or to falsely portray oneself as licensed, according to Amos Martinez, program administrator for the mental-health licensing section of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. "[Somerville] is in the process of renewing his license. He has to take continuing-education and jurisprudence courses, and he has to get letters from supervisors saying he can practice psychology with safety and skill," Martinez says. "He was willing to do whatever was necessary to get his license renewed."

Psychologists are required to renew their licenses every two years. But Somerville, who can't practice psychology until his license is renewed, says he and his employees don't need to be licensed to do the work they do, which involves coaching executives to be better managers. "We don't do clinical psychology here. We apply behavioral science to business challenges. I, personally, am not working with the Botanic Gardens; two of my colleagues are. One is licensed and one is not. About half of the people who do this work in this state are licensed and half are not," he says, explaining that he wants to renew his license only because "it's nice to have."

Somerville says he discovered that his license had expired when he called the board to get a copy of it, which he says he needed in order to be able to practice psychology in every state. "When we moved buildings, I forgot to pay my dues -- it's as simple as that," he says. "I've never had a complaint filed against me."

Somerville plans to complete the license renewal in December.

DBG spokeswoman Holly Jones says the organization has no comment on Somerville's license and that any questions about it should be directed to him.

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Julie Jargon
Contact: Julie Jargon