Disciplinary Proceedings Before the Texas Board of Professional Engineers

The Texas Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (PELS) licenses, monitors, and regulates professional engineers and land surveyors. This agency’s job is to ensure that these professionals follow the rules and laws that govern their profession. As a result, when someone files a complaint against one of these professionals, PELS evaluates, investigates, and processes the complaint. 

Failure to comply with these laws can lead to disciplinary action by PELS, including license revocation, suspension, or probation. You have a lot at stake once you have completed the years of education and training to become a professional engineer. Therefore, if you receive a complaint against your license, we urge you to seek the counsel of an experienced engineer license defense attorney if you face allegations of misconduct related to your licensure. 

When PELS Receives a Complaint

Complaints about professional engineers go directly to PELS for consideration. Upon receipt, a PELS investigator completes an initial evaluation of the complaint for jurisdiction and sufficiency of evidence of a violation. If PELS has jurisdiction over the complaint, PELS will complete an investigation, typically involving interviewing all relevant parties, reviewing evidence, and gathering additional information. After completing the investigation, the investigator prepares a report summarizing the complaint and investigation and recommends the disposition of the complaint. 

The PELS Executive Director (ED) then reviews the complaint and the investigator’s recommendations. At that point, if the ED recommends dismissal of the complaint, the complaining party may submit more information to PELS within 30 days. If the complaining party fails to submit any additional information, both the complaining party and the party who is the subject of the complaint receive a notice of dismissal. On the other hand, if the complaining party submits additional information, the complaint will go through another review process.

If the ED finds evidence that the licensee has violated a law or rule within PELS jurisdiction, the ED can recommend the case for disciplinary proceedings against the licensee. PELS will give notice of the complaint to the licensee, as well as a request for rebuttal to be submitted within three weeks. When PELS receives the rebuttal, an investigator will again review the case, recommend dismissal, find one or more violations, and/or propose sanctions. 

Disposition of Complaints 

Suppose the investigator finds that the licensee has committed one or more violations of the rules or laws that govern professional engineers. In that case, the case will move to the Director of Compliance and Enforcement (DC&E) for review. The DC&E will propose an administrative sanction and a justification for that sanction.

Informal Resolution of Complaints by Agreement

If the evidence indicates that the licensee has violated a law or rule, PELS will prepare a Consent Order and send it to the licensee for approval. A Consent Order sets forth the applicable violation(s) and provides for one or more administrative sanctions. If the licensee agrees with the Consent Order, they may sign and return it to PELS. The full Board must review and approve the Consent Order at its next quarterly meeting for it to go into effect. 

If the licensee disagrees with the Consent Order, they must request an informal conference with PELS. An Informal Conference Committee will conduct an informal conference with the licensee, after which it will recommend dismissal, further investigation, a sanction in the form of an Agreed Board Order, or referral of the case for further disciplinary proceedings. 

At this point, the licensee may sign the Agreed Board Order, which is like a Consent Order, except that it results from an informal conference. Like a Consent Order, the Agreed Board Order goes into effect once the full Board approves it at its next quarterly meeting.

Disposition of Contested Complaints

If the licensee fails to sign a Consent Order, request an informal conference, or sign an Agreed Board Order, or if the Informal Conference Committee recommends further disciplinary action, the case becomes contested. The next step is for PELS to refer the case to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). SOAH then assigns an administrative law judge (ALJ) to handle the case and hold an administrative hearing, which operates like a trial. After the ALJ hears evidence from both sides, the ALJ drafts proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law in the form of a Proposal for Decision (PFD). The ALJ submits to the PFD to PELS for final disposition. 

Sanctions for Disciplinary Complaints

Under 22 Tex. Admin. Code  Sec. 139.31, PELS may issue various sanctions against professional engineers for violating the laws and regulations that govern their profession, as follows:

  • revocation of a license or registration;
  • suspension of a license or registration;
  • probation of a suspended license or registration;
  • refusal to renew a license or registration;
  • issuance of a formal or informal reprimand;
  • cease and desist order;
  • voluntary compliance agreement;
  • emergency suspension; or
  • assessment of an administrative penalty.

22 Tex. Admin Code §139.35 provides various tables of suggested sanctions that PELS may impose against licensees for specific violations of the rules or laws that govern professional engineers. However, the sanctions that PELS may impose can be less than or greater than the recommended sanctions, depending on the following factors:

  • the seriousness of the violation, including the nature, circumstances, extent, and gravity of the prohibited act and the hazard or potential hazard created to the health, safety, or economic welfare of the public;
  • the history of prior violations of the respondent;
  • the severity of penalty necessary to deter future violations;
  • efforts or resistance to efforts to correct the violations;
  • the economic harm to property or the environment caused by the violation; and
  • any other matters impacting justice and public welfare, including any economic benefit gained through the violations.

Administrative penalties can range from a minimum of $100 to a maximum of $5,000 per violation. A separate violation exists for each day that a violation occurs or continues. 

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We Can Help Protect Your Engineering License

If you face misconduct allegations over your engineering license, you should contact your professional engineer license defense lawyer immediately. Our law firm helps professionals like you safeguard their licenses when those licenses are under attack by a licensing board. We are here to help you fight back to protect your engineering license and preserve your career. Call us today at (512) 515-9518 to reach the offices of Bertolino LLP, or contact us online.

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