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Re: Engineering violations revisited[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]
- To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
- Subject: Re: Engineering violations revisited
- From: "Bill Polhemus" <bill(--nospam--at)polhemus.cc>
- Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2005 12:23:48 -0500 (CDT)
> I'm not surprised that they are telling only the part of the story that > makes them look like they are doing their job. But if they don't actually > collect the fines or are constantly being overturned on appeal, how > effective are they? To be fair, none of the newsletters from P.E. boards that I receive have anything but the name of the offender, the nature of the offense and the nature of the penalty. I think it would be quite "uncomfortable" to belabor things any further than that. However, generally speaking I'm sure that some information regarding assessed fines vs. collections might be appropriate. I'm not sure of the legal stance of this kind of thing; after all, the fines are being assessed by a board that is in essence part of the Executive branch of state government, and I don't know regarding any judicial review. Perhaps there are "administrative law" courts to which the fines can be appealed, or to which the Board, in turn, can appeal in case the fines are not paid? Are there any SEAINT listmembers who've had experience with this (hopefully not your own) or who are attorneys familiar with such matters? This much I can say: Just like most bureaucratic constructions, P.E. Boards over the last decade or so have been "feeling their oats" and come to realize the benefits (to them) of revenues arising from fines. Almost at the same instant, many states with which I'm familiar SUDDENLY hired "compliance officers" who in turn began to hire staff including investigators, and they've become a sort of "gestapo" in some instances. I'm probably being overly-dramatic (that's never happened before, however), so bear with me. It just seems like many P.E.s at least in Texas have fallen victim to "speed traps" set up by the P.E. Board, and vigorously enforced by the compliance office. Two examples of this are (1) the state Department of Insurance Windstorm Building Code program, and (2) the P.E. Board's own Firm Registration requirement. In the latter instance, since many engineers running their firms are typically not keeping up with what's going on, a LOT of them were caught unawares when they began receiving notices that they were being assessed penalties for not registering their firms. I'm not talking about those that registered, then failed to remember to send in their annual dues subsequently, but those that really hadn't been paying attention and didn't realize they had to do this. The company for which I worked at the time Texas' Board adopted this rule was a pretty good-sized civil engineering firm, and when I first informed my then-boss about it, he didn't believe me and sort of waved it off. Then they started getting the dun notices. Then finally, they had to pay a pretty stiff fine on top of their initial registration. Now, in that case they can't say no one warned them, but I know of many other cases (especially with the really small firms with only two-ten employees) where they just weren't paying attention and got zapped. Now, I'm not saying that the P.E. Board was playing anyone false, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that they had probably counted on not only the new revenue from the Firm Registration fees, but on a bunch of people not initially complying and having to cough up a bundle in fines. Sort of like when a banker-friend of mine admitted candidly how much of their revenue is made up of NSF charges. They actually look forward to people screwing up. The former instance, the TDI Windstorm Insurance program, has been much more nefarious. I should say in advance here, that I don't believe it was the TDI that came up with this convenient situation, but rather the P.E. Board. The Texas Department of Insurance was required by the legislature to come up with a program of cooperative low-(relatively)cost insurance against damage from wind storms, similar to the Federal Flood Insurance program. People in hurricane damage-prone areas of the state found it difficult if not impossible to obtain coverage for windstorm damage through private insurers unless they purchased a very expensive policy rider. The primary reason for this was that the private insurers realized there is no statewide building code in Texas, and essentially no enforcement in those incorporated cities where the building codes did exist. So the TDI came up with the program, and along with it wrote and published a sort of cobbled-together (in my opinion) "wind storm building code." The requirement was that the builder had to build according to that code in order for that home to be eligible for the program. To assure compliance, the code required that a "registered" inspector perform periodic and final inspection of the home, and sign a standard form attesting to that fact. TDI "preferred" that the registered inspectors be licensed professional engineers. Others could apply but producing a P.E. license guaranteed fast addition to the program. Well, lots of folks, particularly retired engineers, began to sign up as registered inspectors, looking at this as a great source of supplemental income. I make this remark because it seems like everywhere I looked, that's who was doing this work; in fact I never saw any "mainstream" firm listed in the roster of inspectors. Anyway, after a few months the P.E. Board compliance office went to work, following up inspections and perusing the signed certification forms. They found instance after instance where inspectors had signed off on homes that did NOT meet the TDI code criteria. Now, I must say here that I'm sure many, if not most, of these were engineer/inspectors who just did a lousy job. But I know from my own observation that many of them were simply differences of opinion as to what constituted a "code violation"--stemming in great deal from the fact that the code was so poorly written, and really should never have been drafted nor implemented (the then-new IRC and its high-wind criteria, or even the SBC, would have been more than sufficient). But from what I've seen of the record of compliance proceedings from the last several years--available on the P.E. Board's website at http://www.tbpe.tx.state.us--the Board has reaped a "windfall" (pun intended) from the TDI Windstorm Insurance program as a result. It's almost as though they were sitting back in the shadows, waiting for the prey to come into the trap, then swooped out to grab up all these delicious fines and penalties. I've tried to have an open mind about this--but one result is that even though it would have been a very good addition to the services I offered, I never registered with TDI. It just looked like a losing proposition if you happened to miss something. It looked like the Board was in it for what they could get. Perhaps I'm wrong. But my cynicism remains. ******* ****** ******* ******** ******* ******* ******* *** * Read list FAQ at: http://www.seaint.org/list_FAQ.asp * * This email was sent to you via Structural Engineers * Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) server. To * subscribe (no fee) or UnSubscribe, please go to: * * http://www.seaint.org/sealist1.asp * * Questions to seaint-ad(--nospam--at)seaint.org. Remember, any email you * send to the list is public domain and may be re-posted * without your permission. Make sure you visit our web * site at: http://www.seaint.org ******* ****** ****** ****** ******* ****** ****** ********
- RE: Engineering violations revisited
- From: Arvel L. Williams, P.E.
- RE: Engineering violations revisited
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