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RE: An American (Pain In The) Tail

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Noble Hound; Noble Steed. (Maybe independently wealthy or has very good networking skills leading to forthwith immediate hiring elsewhere....)

The company should be identified to the proper authorities for discussion of their "practices." We as engineers should not allow said companies to "sell engineering stamps" without certified engineering/engineers backing those professional seals and the alluded work that was "behind" their engineered designs.

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Polhemus [mailto:bill(--nospam--at)] 
Sent: Monday, September 12, 2011 9:03 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)
Subject: An American (Pain In The) Tail

I'd like to tell you all a story, the story of an engineer who just 
doesn't quite fit in. The boy does all right, for the most part - 
doesn't drool much, cusses only occasionally, is kind to both dogs and 
cats, and may even be current on all Federal income least in 
the near future.

Still, too much right-brain in that boy. Too literal in some things, too 
fanciful in others. Makes other engineers kinda nervous to be around, 
like he's the only one in the room with a chartreuse pocket-protector, 
or still uses a Texas Instruments calculator.

Now, this boy decided to go to work for a very different 
least from his perspective. This company manufactures widgets. More than 
that, they manufacture a VAST ARRAY OF WIDGETS. They have over the 
course of the last few decades, outsold and outlasted many of their 
widget-making competitors, and bought out quite a few of 'em in the 
process. So not only to they make all the widgets their founders 
invented, but many of the ones they used to compete against, until now 
they have your standard four-on-the-floor widgets, widgets that hang 
sideways, widgets that hunker from the ceiling, and even widgets whose 
particular purpose is to watch out for other widgets.

Our boy has mostly in his life been a structural engineer guy, like all 
of you. The widgeting world was new to him...and, he had to admit, 
somewhat intriguing for the difference (I told you he didn't quite fit 
in; I think you're beginning to see why). Having dealt with beams, 
columns, spandrels, purlins, groins, rakes, eaves, capitals, brackets, 
joists, copes, shear tabs, castellated beams, and the odd transfer 
girder or two, the world of widgets had a beguiling sort of newness to 
it that our boy just couldn't resist, particularly at this stage of his 
career (his career had gone on long enough to have stages in it, you see).

So he came aboard, with relish, gusto, and a dollop of mustard. The 
bosses - few of whom were engineers but whose life in widgets had 
brought them into contact with enough of them to think them capital 
fellows - were happy. Our boy was happy. Better yet, the young, 
wet-behind-the-ears Engineer Interns whom he'd been hired to shepherd, 
mentor, oversee and occasionally bathe, seemed to regard his coming with 
not a little relief as they'd been unshepherded for long enough that 
they were beginning to Go Astray.

Now, this company was not, of course, in the engineering business, 
strictly speaking...they made widgets, as I believe I've mentioned. They 
spent a lot more time thinking about shop schedules, equipment 
maintenance, welder training, material procurement, and general 
roundabout manufacturing stuff such as what goes into widget making 
generally. They were widgeteers. It defined them.

But...they had found a nice lucrative sideline in providing what they 
themselves called "engineering packages" to general and subcontractors - 
sold through their network of independent sales representatives - that 
featured their widgets quite prominently. But along with the widgets 
were widget braces, widget connectors, widget configurators, and other 
such widget accessories that, along with the widgets themselves, the 
company's engineers (well, to be sure, their EITs) selected and 
specified and calculated and put down on drawings for the contractors to 
install. And upon these packages, prominently displayed, were the seals 
of the engineer who had previously held the position our boy had now 
accepted, and his signature. Our boy was not quite so encumbered with 
licenses as his predecessor - that worthy had more than forty - but he 
was tasked with the task of obtaining as many as he could in accordance 
with the various states in which the company was providing engineering 

Now, for whatever reason - probably had something to do with overzealous 
toilet-training in his youth - our boy (who, you must remember, didn't 
tend to fit in all that well. You must remember it because I told you 
earlier. Remember?) was quite leery of all this sealing and signing, 
particularly as it appeared in the past to have been done without much 
due respect to the sealing rules in the given states. And above all, the 
company had not seen any necessity of obtaining the Certificates of 
Authority (or Firm Registrations, or Firm License, or Certificates of 
Authorization, which nomenclature depends on the state in question) in 
any of the states for which they were providing these sealed engineering 

Now, our boy discovered upon investigation that the company's management 
- made up with one exception of non-engineers; and that engineer was 
originally from the aerospace field - had only instituted the sealed 
engineering packages because contractors began asking for them, 
apparently without explanation. One of the non-engineer company officers 
went to far as to tell our boy "we sell engineering stamps. It's a nice 
part of our business."

You might understand our boy's trepidation at this point. He said "that 
sounds a bit crass, but beyond that, it kind of sounds like you're 
engaging in a bit of plan-stamping with the engineer consultants you 
have sealing these documents." Our boy's protestations seemed rather 
absurd to the company, since they'd been doing this for years anyway and 
besides, everyone knew that you didn't have to have sealed engineering 
documents if you're a manufacturer. They were only doing the sealing 
thing because the contractors wanted them. (The notion that building 
officials and inspectors might have been lurking in the background 
seemed not to have occurred).

So, seals weren't really needed but were provided because they brought 
in fees; and therefore the state Certificates of Authority (or...oh, you 
know...) were also unnecessary.

Our boy decided he needed to force the issue - his coming upon 
descriptions of disciplinary proceedings against engineers at companies 
that had failed to secure Certificates of Authority appears to have 
given him particular zeal - and stated that unless the company began to 
secure the CAs and the like in the states for which engineering packages 
were being provided, he would have no choice but to tender his 
resignation forthwith.

(I have personally wondered to myself the precise interval between some 
point in time, and "forthwith" from that point of time, and have come to 
find out from our boy that it consists of one business day. His 
resignation was summarily accepted, his keys and Blackberry demanded of 
him, and he was escorted from the premises forth... well, actually, 

Our boy is left wondering if he did right. First, he disagreed with the 
company that the engineering packages did NOT represent "providing 
engineering services to the public" since they were being purchased by, 
and provided to, construction contractors for the express intent of 
installation of the work represented in the packages. Second, he 
disagreed that the company could hand out sealed packages willy-nilly as 
instruments of commerce, without observing all the rudiments of the 
state engineering boards' rules. And finally, he most emphatically 
believed that continuing to be complicit in the company's policies would 
land his ass in a crack from which he might find it difficult to be 
extricated without some loss of blood, tissue, and at the least, his 
professional license.

Our boy wonders - through your humble servant - what you, his 
colleagues, think of all this, and if you think him a pompous ass who 
deserved to be kicked to the curb, or a principled professional who 
chose to put professional ethics before expediency.

Noble hound, or hound-dog? What think ye?

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