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Ethics Complaint Dismissed in SoR Case, 'Ambiguity' Remains


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Craig Tractenberg, Fox Rothschild, said an ethics complaint against him was dismissed September 7.

 

An ethics complaint against Craig Tractenberg, a prominent franchise attorney for Fox Rothschild in Philadelphia who represented School of Rock, was dismissed September 7 by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

“I cannot say anything at all about the matter because of the confidentiality requirements except to say the complaint was dismissed,” Tractenberg said via email. “I have no record of discipline and never have.”

Sean Kelly, the prolific blogger at unhappyfranchisee.com who filed the complaint in June, read to me parts of a letter he said he received from the board. Kelly said the letter to him was dated September 7 and signed by Richard Hernandez, disciplinary counsel, and said: “This is to advise you that our office has concluded our review of your complaint. We have determined the complaint should be dismissed through a letter to Mr. Tractenberg expressing this office’s concerns regarding his conduct.”

Citing “Rule 402,” the letter continued: “I am unable to describe to you the contents of the letter that was sent to Mr. Tractenberg. Please be assured that your complaint was not dismissed without some further action having been taken.”

Rule 402 of the Pennsylvania code is called “Access to Disciplinary Information and Confidentiality” and says “all proceedings under these rules shall be open to the public” after certain conditions are met, and then lists many exceptions. Kelly said the letter to him was marked “personal and confidential.”

Tractenberg wrote he does not have a copy of the letter Kelly said he received, “nor can I respond to that alleged letter. I believe the correspondence in this case is confidential.”

Kelly claimed in early June that Tractenberg called and threatened to expose damaging and in some cases untrue information about Kelly if Kelly did not take down negative posts about School of Rock, the music education franchise where CEO Dzana Homan was fired from her post on June 30.

At the time Tractenberg, who represented School of Rock as outside attorney, said he could not comment on the situation, and he reiterated that statement when reached this week about the complaint dismissal. He said proceedings would be made public only if disciplinary action was taken, adding via email:

 “The Pennsylvania lawyer disciplinary process is intended to be a confidential process. The filing of a complaint, its allegations and the deliberations are not intended to be public absent a finding of violation. One of the reasons for this confidentiality is to allow the Disciplinary Board to consider non-public information in investigating ethics violations.

“I did not answer the questions that you asked in preparation for your article because of these constraints, and I believe these ethical constraints continue to this day with respect to this subject matter. I am permitted to say that I have no record of discipline, and never have,” Tractenberg wrote.

Sean Kelly said the disciplinary board’s response was unsatisfactory. “To me it’s like, how is this even an investigation?” Kelly said. “It leaves this ambiguity out there.” Kelly said, “there’s already a lot of fear on the part of franchisees that there’s no protection” if they criticize a franchisor. “This just sends a message that these attorneys can do something that blatant and that bullying against any critic of franchising, and it’s not even a slap on the wrist.”

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Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is associate editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
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Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
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Nancy WeingartnerNancy Weingartner is editor-at-large of Franchise Times magazine and the editor of the Food On Demand media project. You can reach her at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com.
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