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“Beginning January 2011, a registrant, to be eligible for renewal of the certificate of registration, must accrue at least twelve (12) hours of completed board approved professional development activities during the immediate preceding twelve months in any annual period. Beginning January 2011 and every year thereafter, a minimum of three (3) of the twelve (12) hours shall be in board developed or approved hours on the Act, Rules, and/or ethics.”
What the Act and Rules consist of leaves little room for contention. What are (or should be) the “ethics” of a Land Surveyor in many circumstances is another question entirely.
A quick web search for the definition of the word “ethics” yields the approximate following:
1) A set of moral principles.
2) The rules of conduct recognized in a particular class of human actions or a particular group.
3) Moral principles of an individual.
4) A section of philosophy (wrongness or rightness).
Certain “ethics” of the Land Surveyor are clearly spelled out in the Act and Rules but many other questions regarding “ethics” are left to the imagination. For example, Rule 663.1 states:
“Inasmuch as the practice of the land surveying profession is essential to the orderly use of our physical environment, and inasmuch as the technical work resultant thereof has important effects on the welfare, property, economy, and security of the public, the practice should be conducted with the highest degree of moral and ethical standards.”
The question becomes what is the “highest degree of moral and ethical standards” as it pertains to practice and conduct of a Land Surveyor?
Rule 661.2 states:
“(a) All complaints and requests for hearings shall be filed with the executive director.
(b) Filing of Complaints.
(1) Complaints may be submitted on complaint forms provided by the board or complaints may be submitted in a written format that includes the following information that is reasonably available to the complainant:
(A) name, address and phone number of complainant and respondent (i.e. person charged with alleged violation);
(B) nature and description of the complaint;
(C) copies of factual evidence and other information that supports the complaint;
(D) names and addresses of witnesses; and
(E) signature of complainant recognizing the serious nature of the complaint process and consequences of falsifying a government document.”
Ask yourself it is “ethical” for a Texas Board of Professional Land Surveying (TBPLS) member or investigator to issue an Affidavit of Merit under Section 150.002 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code. If the board member or investigator issued such an affidavit then would they not be obligated under the rules to file a complaint? If the criteria for such an affidavit were met under that code then what would prevent a board member or investigator from performing such service? Would not the presumption that the affiant is a disinterested third party evaporate under such a circumstance? Would this not place the affiant in the uncomfortable position of facing questions regarding abuse of their position in such a circumstance?
Rule 663.7 states:
“Aid should be given the board in maintaining the highest standards of integrity and competence of those in its subject profession and occupation. The registrant:
(1) may initiate a complaint or furnish the board with any information that comes into his/her possession, indicating that any person or firm has violated any of the provisions of the registration laws or code;
(2) shall furnish any information he/she might have concerning any alleged violation of the registration laws or code upon request of the board or its authorized representatives.”
I make errors and omissions all the time does this mean that any Land Surveyor who knows of one of these errors or omissions should report them to the TBPLS? If you discover an error or omission of another Land Surveyor in the course of performing a survey is it “ethical” to not contact that Land Surveyor before contacting other parties?
Rule 663.5 states:
“The highest degree of integrity, truthfulness, and accuracy should be paramount in all dealings with, and representations to, others by not misleading in any way the other's understandings of personal qualifications or information regarding a project. The registrant:
(2) shall not indulge in publicity that is false, misleading, or deceptive;
(3) shall not misrepresent the amount or extent of prior education or experience to any employer or client, nor to the board.”
What if you are competing with a Land Surveyor for the contracts of third parties? Would it be “ethical” to report errors or omissions you believe that Land Surveyor made to those third parties?
Rule 663.10 states:
“The land surveyor shall not:
(5) engage in any conduct that discredits or attempts to discredit the profession of surveying.”
Should any perceived error or omission made by another Land Surveyor be reported to anyone other than that Land Surveyor first? What if that Land Surveyor had evidence you were unaware of that would change your opinion about their actions?
Rule 663.1 states
“(d) Each firm offering surveying services to the public shall notify consumers and service recipients of the name, mailing address, and telephone number of the board for the purpose of directing complaints to the board. This can be accomplished by:
(1) a sign prominently displayed in the place of business of each registrant offering professional land surveying services; or
(2) on a bill for professional land surveying service; or
(3) on each written contract for services.”
If you never have consumers or service recipients come to your office then is it truly “ethical” to suggest you comply with the intent of this rule by only hanging a sign in your place of business? What if I obtain evidence that changes my opinion of a particular professional matter that tends to indicate I made an error or omission previously regarding that matter? Should I send my client a complaint form along with an altered survey?
Rule 663.8 states:
“Strict adherence to practice requirements of related sections of the statutes, the state code, and all local codes and ordinances should be maintained in all services rendered. The registrant:
“(2) shall abide by, and conform to, the provisions of the state code and any local codes and ordinances not consistent with this Act.”
“(3) shall not violate nor aid and abet another in violating a rule of conduct nor engage in any conduct that may adversely affect his/her fitness to practice.”
If a local code or ordinance dictates that a Land Surveyor display conduct or engage in practice that violates the Rules is it “ethical” for a Land Surveyor to offer service in such a circumstance? What if the local code or ordinance consisted of the Land Surveyor in the course of a survey making a statement that he or she was recognized by the State as being something other than a Professional Land Surveyor or Licensed State Land Surveyor? What if the local code or ordinance compelled a Land Surveyor to make affirmative statements regarding matters the Land Surveyor would have no personal, factual or professional information on?
Rule 663.2 states:
“(3) to provide technical standards governing land boundary surveying.
(c) The board shall determine what acts constitute gross negligence, incompetency, misconduct, and violation of the rules and shall institute appropriate disciplinary action which may lead to reprimand, suspension, or revocation of the certificate of registration or certificate of licensure.”
Is the answer to any question regarding “ethical” practice and conduct dictated by what some particular Board member’s or Investigator’s opinion may be on the subject? Is the answer to any question of what is “ethical” dictated by the odds of others becoming aware of what may or may not be considered “ethical” conduct or practice?
Many questions spring to mind regarding what constitutes “ethical” conduct and practice of a Land Surveyor and while you may feel that your own reasoning is impeccable regarding any particular question of “ethics” such reasoning will always be subject to the perception of others and often the question of what is “ethical” is inscrutable. It can be argued that what constitutes “ethical” practice or conduct as a Land Surveyor in many circumstances can only be determined by the individual Land Surveyor faced with a particular circumstance. However I would suggest that a prudent Land Surveyor must consider not only their own opinion but that of others when it comes to certain nuanced questions of what constitutes “ethical” practice and conduct. I am certain that each one of us can opine that some particular practice or conduct of some other Land Surveyor we know of is not “ethical”. For this reason I believe it is important for each of us to examine our own practice and conduct and spend some time educating ourselves about what our fellow Land Surveyor’s opinions are on questions such as “ethics” and how it applies to ourselves.