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Enforcement of Laws and Rules Governing Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors


 


 

Introduction

The State of Idaho promulgates statutes and authorizes promulgation of Rules of Professional Responsibility for the professions of Engineering and Land Surveying. The statutes and rules set standards for licensure and practice to safeguard the life, health, property and welfare of the public. Enforcement authority is vested in the Board of Licensure of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors. Enforcement actions are triggered by formal complaints or requests for an inquiry concerning actions of unlicensed persons, licensees or certificate holders, or business entities holding certificates of authorization. After receipt of a formal complaint or request for an inquiry the Board may declare the complaint de minimis or unfounded, proceed to impose disciplinary measures through a negotiated consent agreement, or proceed to an administrative hearing and possible imposition of disciplinary measures.

Differences of opinion are bound to occur between professionals, especially those who are retained as experts in litigation. The Board will not investigate disputes between engineers or surveyors over opinions held without a clear showing of a violation of statutes or rules. Similarly, it is not the province of the Board to interpret contract provisions. The Board will not investigate or mediate disputes between a licensee and a client over the terms of a contract or a fee, unless there is a clear violation of statutes or rules.

The Board may choose to stay an investigation or proceeding if the matter giving rise to a formal complaint or request for inquiry is the subject of a criminal investigation, criminal prosecution or civil litigation. In this way, parties subject to litigation will not be forced to respond in two forums about the same facts.

The Board will usually not take action based upon an anonymous communication absent imminent threat to the health, safety or welfare of the public. The Board will not take action based upon a presentation of a hypothetical complaint, or a complaint where the person being complained about is not named.

A summary of "Laws and Rules Pertaining to the Practice of the Professional of Engineering and Land Surveying" is available on our home page - look for Laws and Rules Pertaining to the Practice of Engineering and Land Surveying. You may also contact the Board Office at 1510 E Watertower St STE 110, Meridian, ID, 83642-7993 or call (208) 373-7210. The following procedural overview is for general information only. To the extent this general summary conflicts with existing law, the existing statutes and rules will govern. Questions about specific details of the process should be directed to the Executive Director at the Board office.


 


 

Filing a Formal Complaint

Any person may prefer charges against an unlicensed person, a licensee, intern, or business entity holding a certificate of authorization for breaches of legal or professional conduct. To be a formal complaint, the charges must be in the form of a sworn statement before a Notary Public. The affidavit should set forth the underlying facts, specify the statutes or rules violated, and request appropriate disciplinary action against the licensee or certificate holder. The complaint must be filed with the Executive Director of the Board. All licensees wishing to bring an allegation of misconduct under the rules to the attention of the Board should follow this procedure. (top)


 


 

Formal Complaint Processing

(process revised 11-6-15)
  1. Complaints - Any person or entity, including Board members or Board staff, may file a complaint against licensees, interns, firms, unlicensed individuals, and firms that do not hold a Certificate of Authorization (COA) alleging violations of the licensure act or rules relating to the practice of engineering or land surveying. All complaints shall be made in writing by sworn affidavit in a format prescribed by the Board and Attorney General Rules and shall be filed with the executive director of the Board. The executive director may file a complaint. Requests for Inquiry (RFI) may be made by any non-licensed individual against a licensee, intern, or firm holding a COA and no format is prescribed. The Board may initiate inquiries based on information discovered by any source.
  2. Board Jurisdiction - When a complaint or RFI is received, the staff will review the complaint to determine if the Board has jurisdiction and may request a response from the practitioner that is the subject of the complaint or RFI. If the complaint or RFI appears to be unrelated to professional practice, the staff will so advise the Board and will recommend dismissal, or staff or the Board’s attorney is delegated authority to dismiss the case as lacking jurisdiction. If the complaint or RFI related to the unlicensed or unauthorized practice, the Board delegates to the to the Board's attorney authority to send a cease and desist letter or negotiate a settlement and the Board may be informed of this action at the next Board meeting. The Board may also direct that a civil injunction be filed in a district court or a criminal investigation be referred to the Attorney General. The Board may choose to postpone action at any time in this process on cases where civil litigation is involved between the parties.
  3. Investigation Decision - If the complaint appears to be within the Board’s jurisdiction, the complaint or RFI along with the response is placed on the agenda at the next available Board meeting. The Board will evaluate the allegations and decide whether to direct the staff to investigate. For urgent matters, the Board chair may authorize the staff the initiate a preliminary investigation. Any Board member with a potential conflict of interest may recuse themselves of involvement in the case. If the Board determines there is no basis for a violation, the case is dismissed.
  4. Investigation and Case Presentation - Once an investigation is authorized, the staff conducts the investigation and prepares an investigation report. The prosecuting attorney will review the allegations and investigation report to provide information to affirm the facts needed to prove the allegations on cases where the staff finds violations. Then a case presentation is made by the staff or prosecutor who will present the facts sufficient to determine if a probable cause exists, and if so, the matter is referred to the prosecutor for a formal complaint, negotiated settlement or formal hearing. If the staff or investigative committee determines that information provided by a practitioner is insufficient or is being withheld, the prosecuting attorney is delegated authority to issue subpoenas to require the practitioner to provide information or appear before the staff or prosecutor to respond to its inquiry. Minor violations may be resolved without discipline, although the staff or Board may choose to caution or warn the respondent.
  5. Negotiated Settlement Attempted - The prosecutor and the staff may attempt to negotiate a resolution in the form of an informal retirement or surrender approved by the staff, or a Stipulation and Consent Agreement (STIP/CA) that requires Board approval and an order. The Board is presented the investigation report along with the STIP/CA for a final decision If no satisfactory resolution can be affected, or if directed by the Board, staff and the prosecuting attorney will prepare the case for formal hearing. This will include filing a formal complaint (if one is not already filed) and providing appropriate notice to the Respondent. The Board will usually review the formal complaint prior to the official filing. If no formal settlement is proposed or the STIP/CA is rejected by the Board, the prosecutor and staff prepares a formal complaint for hearing , or renegotiates the settlement. The prosecutor is delegated authority to subpoena any witness for hearing. All significant disciplinary cases directed toward hearing will be referred to an independent administrative hearing officer that is contracted by the staff. The hearing officer will hear the complaint and make a Finding of Fact and Conclusion of Law (FOFCOL). The Board will evaluate the FOFCOL, modify if needed, respond to objections and approve the final document. The Board’s attorney will schedule a sentencing hearing if the allegations are sustained at hearing. Non-significant cases such a license application denials or refusals to renew will be heard by the Board. Matters settled by informal resolution or not sustained at hearing will usually be dismissed. Violations of Board approved consent agreements and stipulations will be reviewed by the Board an enforcement notice may be issued by the prosecutor to schedule a hearing. The Board may issue an order to remedy the violations or take other actions deemed necessary.

    The hearing must be held within 6 (six) months of receipt of the complaint unless the Board extends the time for justifiable cause. This process is shown diagrammatically at Disciplinary Process Diagram and a list of typical violations is shown at Table of Violations .

    After the hearing, the Board may take disciplinary action pursuant to Idaho Code 54-1220. (top)

 


 

Making a Request for Inquiry

Any person that is not licensed by the Board may send a written request for inquiry to the Board. Prior to sending a request it is advisable to communicate with the Executive Director to discuss alternative courses of action based on the Boards ability to respond to the request. A written request must explain the situation with enough clarity and detail to enable a preliminary review by the Executive Director. The Executive Director will contact the licensee or certificate holder involved and request a response to the allegations. A review of the request for inquiry and any responses will be placed on a Board meeting agenda. At that meeting the Board may find that the allegations are outside its jurisdiction, de minimis or unfounded. Upon that finding the matter is closed and notice of the finding is sent to both parties.

The process will follow the above Formal Complaint procedure.

Individuals making a Request For Inquiry may be requested to file a formal complaint, but are not required to. Their participation as a witness at an administrative hearing may be required. The Board may attempt, where possible, to protect the identity of the person making a request for inquiry during the investigative stage of the proceeding. However, the Board cannot withhold the identity of an informant once it has been determined that a negotiated consent decree should be offered or an administrative hearing held.


 


 

Conclusion

By this guidance, the Board intends to inform licensees and the public about how it deals with allegations of violation of the rules or laws pertaining to engineering and land surveying. Nothing in this guidance is meant to dissuade a licensee from seeking clarification from the Board about the meaning of a rule or law or how it may be applied in a given instance. The Board is always willing to issue a formal opinion about its interpretation of rules or laws in order to assure that uneven or arbitrary enforcement of the rules will not occur. Precedential Orders and Agency Guidance Documents are published on the Board’s website as examples of previous case settlement or answers to questions about law and rule applicability.


 


 

Special Comments regarding Complaints/Requests for Inquiry on Surveying matters

The Board approved a letter to be sent to all persons making complaints or requests for inquiry regarding surveying matters at its meeting June 7-8, 2011. Click here to read that letter which helps lay people understand some of the issues regarding surveying. (top)


 


 

What you can expect after filing a complaint or request for inquiry

Once a Complaint or Request for Inquiry is filed,

  1. The matter is assigned a Docket Number for processing.
  2. The matter is placed on the Board agenda and the respondent is invited to respond or, in some cases where there is a large amount of time before the next Board meeting, the Board Chairman is briefed by Board Staff on issues. If the Staff and the Board Chair believe that the matter is not unfounded or de minimis on its surface, then a preliminary investigation is begun. Otherwise, the respondent is invited to file a response to the complaint/request for inquiry and the matter is placed on the Board Agenda. The Board reviews the matter and decides on the filed documents if it is de minimis or unfounded. If so, it dismisses the matter.
  3. If the matter is not dismissed upon review, the Board orders a preliminary investigation by staff.
  4. The Board reviews the preliminary investigatory report and then, either dismisses the matter as unfounded or exercises prosecutorial discretion and dismisses the matter, or passes the matter back to Staff and Prosecuting Attorney for negotiated settlement or other formal proceedings. If the Staff and Prosecutor and Respondent fail to reach a negotiated settlement, the matter is prepared for formal hearing.
  5. The Hearing Officer holds a formal hearing and the Board issues a final order.

The complainant is notified upon the matter being dismissed or provided a copy of the final order. The final order is public record. The final order is also filed with the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) Enforcement Exchange (a national database of disciplinary actions for licensing boards). In contrast, the preliminary investigatory report is an internal review document and is exempt from public release by Idaho Code/Rule as a matter having to do with a person's ability to obtain or retain a license.

All formal actions of the Board are also published in the Board Minutes and the Board Newsletter, both of which may be found on the Board's website

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