October 2013

What Happened in Guymon? 

Guest Author Michael S. Ellegood, P.E. is a Professional Engineer registered in New Jersey, Arizona and California. He has held positions ranging from project engineer through senior executive in major consulting engineering firms. He joined the public sector as an agency head ultimately retiring as County Engineer, Public Works Director and Transportation Director for Maricopa County Arizona. He is a senior consultant with PSMJ Resources and consults with public works agencies across North America to improve their project delivery. PSMJ is the leading management resource for A/E/C firms. Click here: www.psmj.com for more information.

A recently publicized report describes an incident where the City of Guymon, Oklahoma hired an architectural firm from Scottsdale, AZ to design a new municipal library, fire station and animal shelter only to discover that the firm was not licensed.  At the time of the discovery most of the work had been completed, apparently satisfactorily. Never-the-less, the City administration was severely criticized, and for a moment at least the success of the project was jeopardized. 

The matter was raised through complaints led by local Oklahoma design firms and the subsequent investigation revealed the following:

*     The firm was not licensed in Oklahoma or the local jurisdiction to do business. 

*     The firm was not licensed in Oklahoma to practice architecture. 

*     No record was found that the firm was licensed to practice architecture in any state (including their home state of Arizona).

*     The firm is not an AIA member. 

The embarrassing incident holds important lessons for all of us whether we are in private practice or in the public sector.  The fundamental lessons are:

*     Don't attempt to practice without a professional license.  (A no brainer but some try it.)

*     Obtain state and local business licenses.  (This is sometimes overlooked by design firms.)

*     Become affiliated with the local professional associations, AIA, ACEC, etc. 

If you are an agency, require respondents to your Request for Proposal to demonstrate that the firm holds all of the necessary licenses, business as well as professional.

Firms attempting to practice in a location distant from their home office will enter a new environment with distinct political overtones.  Local design firms will believe that this is their turf and will resent outsiders (some call them "carpet-baggers") coming in and "stealing" their work.  Agencies are often under political pressure to support local firms to keep the locally raised taxes in the area.  Firms attempting to seek work away from their home turf would be wise to recognize the arena that they are in and work to become part of the local community.  This might include teaming with a local firm, joining the local professional community, contributing to a local issue or initiative or any one of a number of tactics intended to show that the firm understands the community and wishes to become a contributing member of the local design community. 

Michael S. Ellegood's article described the consequences resulting from misrepresentation of professional credentials. The importance of understanding the laws and consequences associated with misrepresenting licensed professional A/E/C services was first addressed in the September 2011 "The Credential" enewsletter in the article "Do you have all of the facts about out-of-state licensing requirements?".

LS Credentialing Services believes the scrutiny of our peers also plays a significant role in upholding the prestigious image of the A/E/C professional community. Let us help you be assured your credentials are maintained and managed efficiently and correctly. Visit us at www.AECredentialing.com for assistance.

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