Beauty salon inspector accused of targeting minorities

April 27, 2010


A state inspector in charge of examining beauty salons and barber shops in San Luis Obispo County has been accused of leveling steep fines on local beauticians and disrespecting the salons’ operators.

Her behavior has caused some to question her motivation with others going as far as accusing her of bias against ethnic minorities.

A handful of local shop owners and their customers claim that Department of Consumer Affairs inspector, Lillian Heyck, has been “unprofessional and demeaning” to minorities in shops she is inspecting. While some claim her actions appear to be racially motivated, others question the state’s recent increase in fine amounts as well as the number of citations being generated.

Marriage and family therapist Rebecca Ferini arrived for an appointment at Professional Nails in San Luis Obispo during a state inspection. She sent a letter to the board noting her concerns that Heyck acted as if the owner of the salon, Karen Ngo, was unable to understand her and also brought her clients into the discussions.

“The inspector was disruptive, unfriendly and disrespectful to Karen and her clients,” Ferini wrote. “When she was finished she addressed all of Karen’s violations with me present and explaining them more to me than to Karen.”

Another client of Ngo’s arrived for an appointment before the inspection began. She said Heyck behaved “very unprofessionally, exhibiting signs of disdain because the owner spoke English with an accent.”

The retired Cal Poly staffer and client of Karen Ngo, who asked to remain unnamed, wrote a letter to state officials complaining about Heyck’s behavior.

“The inspector was demeaning in her speech and actions and highly disrespectful to the owner, treating her as if she was a stupid illegal alien,” the woman wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by CalCoastNews.

“To be honest, it felt like I had somehow stumbled into a situation where a crime had been committed and was being investigated, or I was at the U.S.-Mexican border, where an agent was interrogating someone that was trying to illegally enter this country.”

After spending more than two hours inspecting the small salon, Heyck fined Ngo $1,500 for items such as not having a chair marked as out of order, storing a mop in a restroom and not keeping a pedicure log book to note when she threw disposable pedicure liners away.

Ngo said that when she tried to explain to Heyck that she felt an out-of-order sign would look bad to customers, the inspector rejected her reasoning.

“She (Heyck) said American people don’t care about that,” Ngo said.

CalCoastNews called shops owned by Caucasians who regularly reported shorter inspection times for similarly sized shops and lower fines than their minority counterparts. While most salon owners complained that the state appeared to be attempting to level fines in order to increase revenue, non-minority shop owners said they were warned on some items, such as having unlabeled containers, that minority shops said they were cited for.

At the Paso Robles Design School of Cosmetology, instructor Julie Jameson said they were not asked about pedicure station log books, which she said they did not have, and were warned that they needed to label all of their containers.

Meanwhile, a few blocks away at the Secret Garden and Day Spa, which is owned by a woman who is part American Indian, Heyck cited owner Lisa Weber with not keeping a log book that details when she throws pedicure liners away and for not having containers properly labeled.

Weber contends Heyck focused on an American Indian esthetician when she was cited for numerous infractions, such as the esthetician not having a license, though it is hanging on the wall in the small room she uses for her treatments.

With projected fines of more than $6,000, Weber, who made approximately $14,000 last year, said she plans on permanently closing her salon.

It is a bad economy and these fines are going to shut us down,” Weber said. “Before the state of California was broke, we were never treated like this.”

Ron Schmitt, the owner of the Headsman’s barber shop at 464 Marsh St. in San Luis Obispo, also felt that the state Board of Barbering and Cosmetology is using fines to raise money for their own department.

I have never been cited before and she didn’t even warn me,” said Schmitt, who has been in the business for 48 years. “It is wrong. They are supposed to be here to protect us.”

Schmitt also noted that Heyck was rude and “burst in like the Gestapo.” Schmitt, a Caucasian, received fines of $200 following a 20-minute inspection.

“I have never been cited before,” Schmitt said.

Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the state Department of Consumer Affairs, said that inspectors are permitted to warn a salon owner who has not been cited before or to cite them if the salon is “wrought with violations.” He contended that fines have not gone up and that the state was planning on going back to warnings regarding some violations.

“We are going back to the . . . fines (that can be waived) on pedicure station violations because it has been a hardship to people,” Heimerich said. “I was told fines have been the same since before 2005.”

However, a 2006 fine sheet shows fine rates much lower than the current fine schedules. For example, not having cosmetics in a closed container (Section 988a) was $25 for the first infraction and $50 for the second in 2006.

It is currently $100 for every incident of an open cosmetic container.



  1. azuresees says:

    GWEN: You wrote,

    “You apparently missed the entire point of the inspections……..”

    Evidently, I did. Where in the article is that mentioned?

    If true, does that give them a green light to openly treat the illegal aliens like sh**in front of customers? I still say there’s a professional manner to discuss violations, or hook them up for Title 8 Sect 1325 USC (lllegal Alien).

    If they are not legal, get them the hell outta here, but my point remains: There’s a right way to do enforcement, and I doubt that a stupid acting code enforcement officer is doing ICE work. Provide proof of your claim or stand down and have a nice hot cup of STFU. If you provide proof, I will stand down. Fair enough?

    (3) 7 Total Votes - 5 up - 2 down
  2. Gwen says:

    You apparently missed the entire point of the inspections, since ongoing Immigration and undocumented alien and human trafficking investigations are taking place in Salons they are being targeted due to ICE investigations in a joint investigations with several State regulatory agencies into this activity. One such Salon has been bringing illegal gals from Vietnam and Ms. NGO has been locating men to get them married off for money, this is been happening for some time and thus the joint Federal & State investigations ask Ed Somgoyi what he has been doing to protect one of his victim clients from this ?

    (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
  3. monkscrew says:

    Why are we at all surprised? This stuff goes on in this state all the time. I would argue it happens in our county even more often than the state average.

    The State is hard up for money and will take it wherever they can get it.

    A public official that is racist is nothing new. She should lose her job and I would even argue that those cited unfairly should file a civil rights violation case against the inspector and the state.


    (0) 10 Total Votes - 5 up - 5 down
    • blkwildflower says:

      I wonder if Ms. Heyck gets compensation from any of the violations she writes up?

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  4. azuresees says:

    First, a flag went up when I read the totally subjective comparison by the witness: “treating her as if she was a stupid illegal alien…………..”
    “To be honest, it felt like I had somehow stumbled into a situation where a crime had been committed and was being investigated, or I was at the U.S.-Mexican border, where an agent was interrogating someone that was trying to illegally enter this country.” A little too much melodrama in that description.

    Exagerrated imaginations aside, I agree that if the inspector reveiwed her findings anywhere near customers, she was flat out wrong to do so. That is terrible and unprofessional conduct. The inspector should ask the owner if there was a place they could speak, then go over her findings without a public audience.

    (8) 14 Total Votes - 11 up - 3 down
    • Cindy says:

      azuresees, Your response is in line with my initial reaction. BUT….. the problem does go a bit farther than that. You are missing the point that neighboring licensed white American’s did not receive fines for violations that were of the exact “identical” nature. Remember CCN contacted other salon owners and made those inquiry’s .
      Also, I have to wonder about an inspector that denigrates a minority professional (on premise in her business establishment) while explaining her findings to the patrons!

      (0) 8 Total Votes - 4 up - 4 down
  5. willie says:

    Have you ever wandered how people like this ever gotten into such position of authority!!!

    (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
  6. Spectator says:

    Arrogance by an inspector! She must have been really out of line to have customers write letters and complain. Wait until national health care starts in! Of course on the arrogance issue, there seems to be great examples at the highest level of the current administration and congressional leadership. Just following example!

    (-2) 12 Total Votes - 5 up - 7 down
    • asthecrowphlies says:

      Does anyone else get the irony of spectator talking about arrogance ?

      (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
  7. willie says:

    With all the benefits the state has to offer to employees,
    It is a shame this low life got selected or promoted to inspector,
    It is sufficiently apparent she is deluded with some kind of complex,
    She may have gotten by state personnel with the act but the investigation expose her true level.

    Unfortunately, her superiors will protect her to CYA themselves first,
    If the citations written have regulatory reference (even if stretched) they’re covered,
    The most the state can do is promote her away if they can’t transfer her,
    But the insult, offense and damage done and will NOT be reverse to protect the state’s own reputation.
    What a shame.

    (14) 18 Total Votes - 16 up - 2 down
    • willie says:

      The victims are very fortunate to have an investigative reporter look into this.
      I am now realizing that this is or seems to be where the people’s true safe guard comes from.

      (12) 14 Total Votes - 13 up - 1 down
      • hotdog says:

        There is no democracy without a free press. CCN has been a godsend to us, and I applaud all the whistle blowers who keep it informed of the darkness underneath the rocks where evil lurks. It is incumbent on the readers to take the info to the heights deserving of newfound knowledge. We must complain to, and cajole our reps in government to clean up the messes exposed by this and other venues. So contact those who have the power and responsibility to create a better society (elected officials, Chiefs of Police, our near worthless DA). Just hearing about all the rotten deals in our county doesn’t fix them, we have to take action.
        This venue, other press and the Congalton show on KVEC are critical for the public to stay informed.

        (15) 17 Total Votes - 16 up - 1 down
  8. Cindy says:

    This is absolutely bizarre. I don’t know what’s going on here but I have no doubt that the State Board regulating the Cosmetology profession is (like all gov lately) out to garner additional funding by means of increased fines and knit picking. Another thing that seems apparent is that this inspector is a real piece of work. Talk about an incompetent, condescending public servant that is out of control and lacks all aspects of professional decorum. I know what I’m talking about because I was a licensed hairdresser before I went into the accounting field and her behavior in the presence of customers is highly irregular and inappropriate. I sure hope everyone who was offended by her behavior including the cosmetologist and stylist file formal complaints and request an injury. Sounds like she might also be taking advantage of minority license holders in her mission to garner more gov revenues.

    (19) 33 Total Votes - 26 up - 7 down
    • Cindy says:

      “I sure hope everyone who was offended by her behavior including the cosmetologist and stylist file formal complaints and request an injury.”

      Hahahahah, While I meant ” inquiry” and not “injury”, this is one of those times when I would ask the moderator to correct me. I just have to laugh as in LOL at that obvious Freudian slip.

      (1) 13 Total Votes - 7 up - 6 down
      • hotdog says:

        Without a doubt an inquiry about the injury is called for here. If these allegations are borne out I would suggest the inspector be publicly humiliated and fired. An eye for an eye. Even if she was ordered to act that way there is no excuse for such behavior.

        (9) 19 Total Votes - 14 up - 5 down

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