(a) Every fee payer is entitled to be reimbursed for any reasonable fees and expenses related to a hearing before the board if all of the following conditions are met:
(1) The fee payer files a claim for the fee and expenses with the board within one year of the date the decision of the board becomes final.
(2) The board, in its sole discretion, finds that the action taken by the board staff was
(3) The board decides that the fee payer be awarded a specific amount of fees and expenses related to the hearing, in an amount determined by the board in its sole discretion.
(b) To determine whether the board staff has been unreasonable, the board shall consider whether the board staff has established that its position was substantially justified.
(c) The amount of reimbursed fees and expenses shall be limited to the following:
(1) Fees and expenses incurred after the date of the notice of determination, jeopardy determination, or a claim for refunds.
(2) If the board finds that the staff was unreasonable with respect to certain issues but reasonable with respect to other
issues, the amount of reimbursed fees and expenses shall be limited to those that relate to the issues where the staff was unreasonable.
(d) Any proposed award by the board pursuant to subdivision (a) shall be available as a public record for at least 10 days prior to the effective date of the award.
(e) The amendments to this section by the act adding this subdivision shall be operative for claims filed on or after January 1, 2000.