2-4-621. When absent members render decision -- proposal for decision and opportunity to submit findings and conclusions -- modification by agency. (1) When in a contested case a majority of the officials of the agency who are to render the final decision have not heard the case, the decision, if adverse to a party to the proceeding other than the agency itself, may not be made until a proposal for decision is served upon the parties and an opportunity is afforded to each party adversely affected to file exceptions and present briefs and oral argument to the officials who are to render the decision.
(2) The proposal for decision must contain a statement of the reasons for the decision and of each issue of fact or law necessary to the proposed decision and must be prepared by the person who conducted the hearing unless that person becomes unavailable to the agency.
(3) The agency may adopt the proposal for decision as the agency's final order. The agency in its final order may reject or modify the conclusions of law and interpretation of administrative rules in the proposal for decision but may not reject or modify the findings of fact unless the agency first determines from a review of the complete record and states with particularity in the order that the findings of fact were not based upon competent substantial evidence or that the proceedings on which the findings were based did not comply with essential requirements of law. The agency may accept or reduce the recommended penalty in a proposal for decision but may not increase it without a review of the complete record.
(4) A hearings officer who is a member of an agency adjudicative body may participate in the formulation of the agency's final order, provided that the hearings officer has completed all duties as the hearings officer.