OSPE - The Voice - Fall 2012 - (Page 28)
FACING A COMPLAINT
A brief primer on the PEO complaints and discipline process
By Gary Gibbs
Perhaps you made a serious error in a drawing, your client paid to fix it, and now your client is upset. Or perhaps the Chief Building Official in your jurisdiction discovered the error. Before long, you receive a formal written complaint from PEO. So what happens next?
The first thing to understand is that PEO does not exist to support an engineer facing allegations of wrongdoing. PEO has a statutory mandate to regulate and govern engineers in order to serve and protect the public interest. To further that self-governing mandate, PEO has a complaints process, which is essentially adversarial in nature, pitting the regulator against the accused engineer. The complaints process differs from a civil action, in which a client might sue for damages or the return of fees. Fee disputes brought to PEO are dealt with through the Fees Mediation Committee. In a civil action, an engineer will report the matter to an insurer, who will appoint a solicitor to defend. For a PEO complaint, most insurers provide only modest coverage, leaving engineers to determine whether they should retain a lawyer at their own cost. A civil action can be an expensive process for an aggrieved party to pursue, whereas the complaints process is prosecuted by PEO free of charge to the Complainant. The filing of a complaint triggers the appointment of an investigator, who will seek documents and an interview with the engineer. Whether to cooperate becomes a strategic decision, as any information provided can be used against the engineer at a later hearing. Cooperation and disclosure should not be automatic, but it can be a valid strategy in trying to avoid a complaint proceeding, especially if that complaint is misguided. Caution must be exercised at this stage, especially if PEO has obtained an expert report. The next step is consideration of the complaint, including any response by the engineer or the PEO Complaints Committee. This is done in writing rather than by hearing. The Committee determines whether there is enough merit on the face of the complaint to justify a referral, in whole or in part, to the PEO Discipline Committee. The Complaints Committee does not determine guilt or innocence, but rather only considers whether allegations of professional misconduct or incompetence warrant further consideration.
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of OSPE - The Voice - Fall 2012
OSPE - The Voice - Fall 2012
A Great Day on the Green
Don’t Miss the 65th OPEA Gala
Engaging Tomorrow’s Engineers
The Business End of Engineering
Profile: Pierre Lassonde, P.Eng.
Continuing Professional Development: Mandatory or Not?
PAN Expands Outreach to Ottawa
You’ve just had an auto accident. Now what?
Ask the Expert: Facing a Complaint
Keep Yourself Covered
What’s 2 + 2? Depends Who’s Answering!
Custom-built Learning for Engineers
OSPE - The Voice - Fall 2012