Adventures in Living.

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 trivial 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 at 2013 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 affected party may prefer charges against an unlicensed person, a registrant, or business entity holding a certificate of authorization for breaches of legal or professional conduct. 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 registrant 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)

A. Complaints Any person or entity, including the Board 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. All complaints shall be made in writing in a format prescribed by the Board and shall be filed with the Board. Requests for Inquiry (RFI) may be made by any non-licensed individual against a licensee, intern, or firm holding a COA.

B. 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. If the complaint appears to be untimely or 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 or as untimely; the Board may be informed of dismissals at the next Board meeting. If the complaint relates to unlicensed or unauthorized practice, the Board delegates to the Board’s attorney authority to send a cease and desist letter and the Board will be advised of this action at the next Board meeting. The Board may at that time also direct that a civil injunction or criminal complaint be filed with the court.

C. Probable Cause for Violation If the complaint appears to be within the Board’s jurisdiction and there is probable cause for a violation or if the information is insufficient to determine if probable cause exists, the staff will share the complaint and response with the Board (with names redacted). The Board may request an investigation, and/or refer it to an investigative committee, including a Board member as needed, designated by the Board chair. For urgent matters, the Board chair may authorize the staff the initiate a preliminary investigation (as needed). Any Board member on the investigative committee for a matter cannot participate or vote on a subsequent stipulated resolution or disciplinary hearing. Any Board member with a potential conflict of interest may recuse themselves of involvement in the case. If the Board determines there is no probable cause for a violation, the case is dismissed as unfounded or de minimis.

D. Investigation and Limited Case Presentation If probable cause is determined or suspected, the staff or the investigative committee conducts an investigation, and prepares a revised probable cause report (with names redacted) for re-submission to the Board in a Limited Cases Presentation. If the staff or investigative committee determines that information provided by a practitioner is insufficient or is being withheld, the attorney for the staff or investigative committee is delegated authority to issue subpoenas to require the practitioner to provide information or appear before the investigative committee to respond to its inquiry. If the Board determines there is no probable cause for a violation, the case is dismissed as unfounded or de minimis.

E. Negotiated Settlement Attempted If the Board finds probable cause for violation(s) exists, the Staff will proceed to attempt to negotiate a resolution in the form of an informal settlement, dismissal, or a formal Stipulation and Consent Order (STIP/CO) that requires Board approval. If no satisfactory resolution can be effected, Staff will prepare the case for formal hearing. This could include filing a formal complaint (if one is not already filed) and providing appropriate notice to the Respondent. An executive summary is used when more than one licensee, intern, or business entity is under investigation and future disciplinary proposals remain unresolved at the time of a proposed STIP/CO settlement. In such case, the ex-parte presentation may limit disclosure of actual co-Respondents, as possible. It is also presented if a STIP/CO cannot be achieved, or if the case may be compromised. Alternatively, if no formal settlement is proposed or the STIP/CO is rejected by the Board, legal counsel for the staff or investigative committee prepares a complaint for hearing, or re-negotiates to settlement.

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, trivial 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 will almost certainly be required. The Board will 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 of Professional Responsibility. Nothing in this guidance is meant to dissuade a licensee from seeking clarification from the Board about the meaning of a rule or how it may be applied in a given instance. The Board is always willing to issue a formal opinion about its interpretation of the Rules of Professional Responsibility in order to assure that uneven or arbitrary enforcement of the rules will not occur.

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 tne 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 trivial on its surface, then concurrence by another Board member is obtained and 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 trivial 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. If the Staff and Prosecutor and Respondent fail to reach a negotiated settlement, the matter is prepared for formal hearing.
  5. The Board holds a formal hearing and issues a final order
(top)

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, an internal review document 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.(top)

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(top)