|(a) Fair hearings are conducted by an impartial hearings officer who: (1) does not have a personal involvement in the case; (2) was not involved in the initial determination of the action that is being contested; and (3) was not the agency representative who took the action or the immediate supervisor of that representative. (b) The hearings officer's supervisor may reassign the fair hearing to another officer. (c) Responsibilities. The hearings officer conducts the fair hearing as an informal proceeding, not as a formal court hearing, and is not required to follow the Texas Rules of Evidence or the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. (1) General duties. The hearings officer: (A) determines whether a client requested a fair hearing in a timely manner, or had good cause for failing to do so; (B) schedules a pre-hearing conference to resolve issues of procedure, jurisdiction, or representation, if necessary; (C) requires the attendance of agency representatives, or witnesses, if necessary; (D) is prohibited from engaging in ex parte communication, whether oral or written, with a party or the party's representative or witness relating to matters to be adjudicated; and (E) arranges for reasonable accommodations for disclosed disabilities. (2) During the hearing, the hearings officer: (A) makes the official recording of the hearing; (B) ensures that the appellant's and agency's rights are protected; (C) determines whether there is a need for an interpreter; (D) limits the number of persons in attendance at the hearing if space is limited; (E) controls the use by others of cameras, videos, or other recording devices; (F) administers oaths and affirmations; (G) ensures consideration of all relevant points at issue and facts pertinent to the appellant's situation at the time the action was taken; (H) considers the appellant's changed circumstances, when appropriate and possible; (I) requests, receives, and makes part of the record all relevant evidence; (J) regulates the conduct and course of the fair hearing to ensure due process and an orderly hearing; (K) conducts the hearing in a way that makes the appellant feel most at ease; and (L) orders, if determined to be necessary, an independent medical assessment or professional evaluation to be paid for by the agency or the agency's designee. (3) After the hearing, the hearings officer: (A) makes a decision based on the evidence presented at the hearing; (B) determines if the agency's or its designee's action is in compliance with statutes, policies, or procedures; (C) allows the appellant to request and receive a copy of the recording at no charge; (D) except as provided in subparagraph (E) of this paragraph, issues a timely written decision, and includes findings of fact, conclusions of law, pertinent statutes, and a final order; (E) issues a decision in THSteps cases containing the purpose of the hearing, the legal authority, procedural history, summary of the evidence, findings of fact, conclusions of law, and relevant authorities; and (F) to ensure compliance, orders the agency, its representative or designee to implement the order within the time limits specified in the relevant federal regulation, monitors compliance with the order, and notifies program management if the order is not implemented.