The Texas Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (TBPELS) handles the licensing, complaint, and disciplinary process for professional engineers and land surveyors. TBPELS accepts complaints from any members of the public about these licensed professionals, investigates those complaints, and takes disciplinary action when warranted.
When TBPELS receives a complaint about a professional engineer or land surveyor, it reviews the complaint for jurisdiction, completeness, and evidence of a violation of a rule or law that applies to these professions. The complaint goes through a series of independent reviews by various staff members, as follows:
- A Supervising Investigator (SI) or Investigator reviews a complaint for completeness and jurisdiction by gathering information; if necessary, the Investigator drafts an internal memo summarizing the complaint and recommending disposition of the complaint, which can include dismissal or potential sanctions.
- The complaint and recommendation then go for review by the Staff Attorney (SA), Director of Compliance & Enforcement (DC&E), Deputy Executive Director (DED), and Executive Director (ED).
Dismissal of Complaints
If the ED recommends dismissal, TBPELS notifies the complainant and allows them to provide any additional information within 30 days that might allow for further review. If the complainant provides no additional information, both the complainant and respondent receive a dismissal letter. Otherwise, if the complainant provides additional information, the investigator again reviews the complaint, provides recommendations, and distributes them to all reviewing staff members.
Recommendations for Further Action
If the case is referred for further action, TBPELS sends a letter to the respondent advising them of the complaint, its source, the potential violation(s), the law(s) and rule(s) allegedly violated. TBPELS also requests a rebuttal to the complaint, which the respondent typically must provide within three weeks.
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The investigator then reviews the respondent’s rebuttal or response and recommends dismissal or identifies violations that justify sanctions. Next, the SI, SA, and DC&E review the recommendations, and if it includes a proposed sanction, the DC&E determines a potential administrative penalty with justification. Finally, the DED and ED review the recommendations and potential administrative penalties.
Ultimately, the ED has the final authority as to the disposition of the case. The ED may notify both parties of the case’s dismissal and closure or proceed to sanction the respondent.
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Suppose the ED decides to reprimand, sanction, or ask the respondent to cease and desist from certain actions. In that case, TBPELS will issue a letter of notification and proposed Consent Order to the respondent. If the respondent signs and returns the Consent Order, TBPELS will review and approve or deny it at their next quarterly meeting.
However, suppose the respondent refuses to sign the Consent Order. In that case, they can request an informal conference with the Informal Conference Committee, consisting of a TBPELS member, the ED, and the SA or Attorney General Representative. Otherwise, TBPELS will refer the case to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) for an administrative hearing.
The Informal Conference Committee can recommend any of the following after the informal conference:
- Further investigation
- Dismissal of the complaint
- Sanction if the form of an Agreed Board Order
- Referral of the case to SOAH
In the case of an Agreed Board Order that the respondent signs and returns, TBPELS will review and either approve or deny it at their next quarterly meeting.
If a formal hearing occurs at the SOAH, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) submits recommendations and a proposed order to TBPELS for approval or denial. TBPELS will notify the respondent of its action and inform them of any sanction and administrative penalty.
Potential Sanctions in Disciplinary Proceedings
Under TBPELS Rule §139.31, TBPELS can impose various sanctions against professional land surveyors who violate board rules or laws. Potential sanctions can include the following:
- 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
- Assessment of an administrative penalty
TBPELS Rule §139.35 states that the severity of disciplinary actions and sanctions depends 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
Count on Bertolino LLP, to Defend Your License from Disciplinary Action
When a complaint threatens your ability to earn a living, you need a seasoned land surveyor license defense attorney on your side. We will defend you against these attacks on the credentials you have worked so hard to earn. Get in touch with the lawyers of Bertolino LLP today by calling (512) 476-5757 or visiting us online.