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During my time as a licensed engineer I only had one occasion to encounter a P.E. who had run afoul of his licensing board and became the subject of disciplinary action.  In the last year alone, I encountered two engineers with similar issues arising.  It makes me wonder if difficult economic times can sometimes influence a professional’s judgment, leaving him/her tempted to do things that might not otherwise ever take place.
Professional Engineers are among the professionals considered to be most ethical.  Yet even the most ethical folks can be driven to desperation in tough times.  Both of the cases of which I recently learned appear to fall into such a category.
We should all remember that compliance with our Code of Ethics is among the promises we make as professional engineers.  Adhering to that code when we seek a certain level of income can sometimes be difficult, but there really is no choice.  Violating our ethical standards in order to make a short term gain of income runs the risk of losing our entire ability to generate revenues as a P.E. if we are caught and disciplined.
I had occasion to look carefully at the situation involving one case of which I knew and discussion with the appropriate entities revealed a unique level of compassion, but nonetheless recognition that there was a problem.  The particular case involved circumstances of plan stamping coupled with lack of registration renewal.  The end result was a situation involving numerous jobs having been filed (with fees collected) when the individual in question was not appropriately registered.  As more of the facts emerge it appears as if it was more than simply an oversight.
It remains to be seen what will take place concerning the inappropriately filed plans in this person’s case, but it has triggered many of the local building departments to now begin checking the status of those engineers and architects submitting documents.
If revenues in your practice are suffering in these economic times, avoid the temptation to sell out our profession’s long standing reputation as among the most ethical.
*This article was posted in the Fall 2010 edition of The Examiner.