The Re-Launch of the Department of Real Estate and De-Commissioning of Commissioner Wayne Bell
It comes with mixed feelings that I write about the return of “The Department of Real Estate” (DRE). I began my career in government in 2008 working for the DRE as a “Deputy Commissioner”, which was basically as an investigator. I came from the private sector (escrow industry) and the transition to public service was definitely new for me. And while I had my reservations about the change, I must admit, for me, the DRE was an exciting place to work. I owe part of that positive experience to the motivating influence and effective leadership of Wayne Bell.
Wayne Bell began working for DRE in 2006 as the Chief Counsel. I first met Wayne in 2009 when we were both presenters at a statewide DRE Training. From that point forward, including when he was appointed to Real Estate Commissioner, I was very fortunate to work with him on various initiatives and projects. Some of the work included the creation of DRE policy and procedures, co-authoring of licensee advisories and consumer alerts, joint enforcement efforts with other governmental agencies, and the training and certification of our investigators under Proposition 115 (which was our first project and one that I was particularly proud of). Regarding the latter, DRE Investigators are “Prop 115 certified”, enabling them to testify to their investigative work for the benefit of law enforcement partners pursuing law violators at criminal hearings.
As long as I have known Wayne, he has always worked tirelessly at the DRE and was constantly committed to, and passionate about, adding public value. In each role at DRE, Wayne was a serious and passionate consumer advocate. In doing his work, Wayne was a proponent of good, efficient, and cost-effective government. Moreover, he adored public service, having a meaningful dialogue with real estate industry stakeholders, and made lasting contributions in terms of his outreach to consumers and the industry, and his many publications (including warnings about fraud). I was fortunate to be able to co-author a few publications with him, and to attend some of his presentations.
At DRE, Wayne was very approachable. He always had time for his colleagues and staff. Any ideas, questions or concerns, no matter who proffered them, were welcomed and met with thoughtful responses and action. It seemed rare to me that someone at “the top of the ladder” would make himself available to those who are not. But the simple truth was that, Wayne treated everyone with respect and was genuinely interested in others’ suggestions about how to make DRE better, more efficient, and to continually improve our standard of care for the benefit of our licensees and consumers.
Timeline and Noteworthy Events
For those interested in the timeline of events, Wayne was appointed as the California Real Estate Commissioner in February of 2013. It was also during this time, in July of 2013, that the Governor’s Reorganization Plan became effective. This plan reclassified the DRE from a department under the Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency (BT&H) to the “California Bureau of Real Estate” (CalBRE) under the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), which was placed under the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency.
As far as the transition, in my opinion, the change from a standalone department to a non-independent bureau, “CalBRE”, was not easy for DRE employees. The “reorg”, as it was coined, was tedious since DCA essentially took over DRE’s budget, finances, and the task of providing administrative services for the new CalBRE. When an autonomous department is transitioned into a less independent entity, and absorbed under a larger governmental agency, the extra layer of government (literally) will naturally have an impact on efficiency. Because I left CalBRE in 2014, to work for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, I cannot attest to how this union, and the logistics thereof, fully played out over the last several years.
If you are interested in more information with regard to the effects of the reorganization on the former DRE, you should refer to a rather eye-opening report of the Legislative Analyst on DCA’s 2018-2019 budget. The report can be found here:
It is also worth noting that in March of 2016, Wayne was called to testify before a Joint Senate-Assembly Legislative Oversight Committee about DCA and the efficiency of the DRE/CalBRE transition. He testified truthfully, and based upon what I have learned from those closer to the situation, accurately at the hearing. If you are interested, you can watch his testimony here (his testimony begins at the 1:50:00 mark):
It was after the Oversight hearing that Senate Bill 173 was written and introduced by Senator Dodd. The bill was designed to remove CalBRE from DCA, and re-establish DRE as an independent department under the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency. The analyses of the bill are very interesting and instructive, and they support and go beyond the statements of Wayne’s testimony at the hearing with regard to DCA.
Amazingly, Senate Bill 173 received unanimous legislative support (not one “no” vote was lodged). The bill also had the support of all of the stakeholders of CalBRE; the California Association of Realtors (which had also sponsored the bill), the California Building Industry Association, the American Resort Development Association, the California Association of Mortgage Professions, and others.
Governor Brown did sign the bill in late 2017, and the effective date of the law was scheduled for July 1, 2018.
De-Commissioning of Commissioner Bell
Returning now to the title of my article - and the other part of the story. And that is the de-commissioning of Real Estate Commissioner Wayne Bell.
On June 29, 2018, only 1 day and a few hours before the new DRE would come into existence, Wayne received a call from Mona Pasquil Rogers, the Governor’s appointments secretary. According to a communication disseminated at CalBRE/DRE, she said that the Governor’s Office was “making a change in direction” and that Wayne would no longer be the Real Estate Commissioner, effective immediately (in reality, he ended up serving through the close of business on July 9th).
But that was it. No reasons were given, and Wayne was “de-commissioned”. I can tell you as a former colleague of his, in my opinion, the State, its consumers, and the real estate industry, are all poorer for the decision made to dismiss Wayne Bell as Real Estate Commissioner. It’s akin to suspending the “straight-A” student who excels in every subject and goes above and beyond the call of duty. Wayne was a thoughtful and effective leader who really cared and (and cares) about the public, public service, and fair and ethical decision-making.
Nevertheless, it is now August, and there has been no change in direction at the new DRE. I believe, as do myriad others, that Wayne Bell was an extremely committed Commissioner, public servant, and consumer advocate. And while the return of the “Department of Real Estate” is a wonderful thing, I am sure I am not alone when I express that the dismissal of Wayne Bell as Commissioner is equally deflating.
Summer Goralik is a Real Estate Compliance Consultant and Broker, and former DRE Investigator. She offers real estate brokers assistance with DRE audits and myriad compliance services. Summer is not an attorney, thus any opinions, suggestions or recommendations contained herein are based on her experience working for, and knowledge of the laws enforced by, the Department of Real Estate, and must not be considered legal advice. Please consult with a California licensed real estate attorney for legal advice, support and/or clarification.
Check out Summer's website for more information about her consulting services: