Board's Disciplinary Procedures Explained
Under the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation's (LLR) operating policies for disciplinary actions, supported by Section 40-1-100, which provides consistent guidelines for all professional and occupational licensing Boards, the Board of Engineers and Surveyors addresses disciplinary issues for licensed individuals and firms and unlicensed practice by various individuals and firms. To make sense of the process, one of the Board members created the flow chart below. The publishing of this flow chart will help licensees and others understand the processes that are initiated when the LLR or the Board receives a complaint.
You will notice that complaints against unlicensed individuals are handled by administrative staff, not by investigators in LLR's Office of Investigations and Enforcement. Allegations of unlicensed practice generally fall into two categories: individuals/firms who are qualified to be licensed and individuals/firms who are not qualified (by experience, education, etc.) to be licensed. Individuals and firms who are qualified may submit an application to become licensed. However, they must either sign a Consent Agreement wherein they admit to unlicensed practice and are fined, or they may elect to have an application Hearing before the Board. In all cases, an Order to Cease and Desist is issued to the individual or firm and posted on the Board's website.
For instances where the individual or firm is not qualified for licensure, the administrative staff issues a Cease and Desist Order. Violation of the C&D Order is adjudicated by the S.C. Administrative Law Court.
Allegations of misconduct against licensed individuals and firms are investigated by the LLR Office of Investigation and Enforcement (OIE). See the middle section of the flow chart. An Investigative Review Committee (IRC), comprised of a licensed engineer and surveyor, attorney, Board administrator, investigator and an OIE supervisor review each valid complaint, the investigative report, plans and plats (if applicable), and other documentation collected as part of the investigation. The IRC makes a recommendation to the Board (using only case numbers, not names) for action. The Board has provided parameters for consistent processing of similar cases which the IRC uses, but may recommend that a hearing be held if the individual's or firm's actions are such that other remedies are inappropriate.
If an investigation determines that no violation has taken place, the case is dismissed and subsequently is reported to the Board. If an investigation determines that a very minor violation has occurred, a letter of caution may be issued to the individual or firm. A letter of caution is non-disciplinary in nature, is not public, and does not have to be reported to other licensing boards.
Consent Agreements are an expedient way to address allegations, especially in cases of unlicensed practice. Usually, an individual or firm has practiced engineering or surveying in South Carolina prior to licensure, either by accident or by ignorance of the laws. Most are motivated to become licensed and do not wish to delay the process by waiting for a hearing date. If they meet the Board's parameters for issuance of a Consent Agreement, the individual may sign the Consent Agreement.