July 8, 2011
By Jerome Leslie Eben, AIA
AIA NJ Regional Director ’11-‘13
The above title of this month’s article relates to the national AIA position statement #15. As stated, it supports the strict enforcement of architectural licensing laws by the jurisdictions [so in-trusted to do so] and recommends that penalties be assessed for incompetent or improper practice by licensees. It also recommends that the unlicensed practice of our profession must be vigorously prosecuted [in a timely manner] with assessed penalties and injunctions.
As your Regional Director and a Stakeholder of the Board Advocacy Committee, I have been asked to either agree or disagree with this position statement along with others in a few short weeks. This is so these position statements can be voted on at the December 2011 AIA Board Meeting. I have been invited to make additional comments and/or suggestions, and those that know me well, know that I do not pass up an opportunity to speak my mind on any number of issues and will submit the following:
I am not sure that we (AIA) as a national organization can get more involved (as much as I would want us too) in the enforcement of individual State licensing laws. However, this being said I would like to see the following added to the above policy statement:
AIA encourages its members to file complaints, especially in regard to those who they believe are practicing architecture illegally. They can do so by submitting their local complaint form to the State Licensing Board having the jurisdiction where the violation has taken place.
Within this E-newsletter this month is an article from Justin Mihalik, AIA, outlining how the members can help, by filing complaints about the illegal practice of our profession. PLEASE do not hesitate to take the time (less than 5 minutes) to file the complaint form with the State Board of Architects.
In regard to my comments placed in brackets in the original policy statement above, but in particular to “in a timely manner,” is a direct response to what I have found absolutely lacking here in New Jersey, hence the added (?) at the end of the title of this article. This is especially true since the retirement of Dr. James Hsu, who served as the Board’s Executive Director for over a decade.
I filed a complaint (No. 72609) against a so called drafting and design firm for advertising and unlicensed practice in August of 2010. On September 9, 2010, I received a letter from the Board’s acting Executive Director acknowledging receipt of the complaint and telling me that I would be notified in writing of the outcome in this matter. The next paragraph (which I found to be odd) went on to explain that the Board only meets once a month and that the process may take some time and that I should not expect an immediate response to the complaint. I did not understand why that statement would be made up front. It seemed as if he was providing an excuse for a delay right after I filed the complaint! After a visit to a Board meeting and four months passed, I put a call in to the Assistant Attorney General who monitors the State Board and who I have only the highest regard for. Unfortunately all she could tell me was that the investigation was on going.
With the passing of the ninth month and no word of the status of this case, I thought I would take it up a notch and send a message to the Acting Director of Consumer Affairs. I did so, for after all besides being an architect, I am also one of NJ’s nearly eight million consumers and I wanted the individual in charge to know that I thought that nine months was much too long to wait for a reply for an agency under his jurisdiction. My message prompted a second letter dated June 14, 2011 from the Acting Executive Director for the Board, that Consumer Affairs had forwarded him my concern. I can only imagine what that telephone conversation sounded like.
No matter, apparently the best that he could write was that the matter remains under investigation and that no further information could be provided at this time. Of course not being satisfied with that reply I called the Division of Consumer Affairs for 10 consecutive days leaving messages for the Acting Director or his assistant, who apparently is not acting. Before receiving a call back from the assistant, I received a call from the Chief of Staff of Community Affairs, who must be over Consumer Affairs. She provided no more information than Acting Executive Director for the Board did in his two letters.
I explained to her that I represent nearly 2,000 AIA members here in New Jersey on the National Board of AIA and that architects in general are hurting, with firms that are or have closed along with many that have downsized, or are working a four-day work week. I went on to state that many of my colleagues including myself have taken second jobs to continue to provide for their families and for the State to allow the illegal practice of architecture to continue is outrageous!
The above resulted in the call from the Assistant Director of Consumer Affairs (within 10 minutes) who could not offer any other solution for me except to continue to wait for the Board’s action. I explained to him that I am tired of waiting, so I have kicked upstairs to the Governor’s office. As a former prosecutor, maybe he will see the urgency of bringing to justice those who would practice our profession illegally and do so quickly, before there is a disaster and a NJ consumer gets hurt or worse.
In regard to my very first article on communicating, please do not hesitate to call or better still send me an E-mail regarding this topic. My intent is to print these out and send a second letter to the Governor, if I do not hear from him by the end of this month.
Architects are skilled professionals who listen to you, interpret your wishes, help realize your building dreams, and add value at every stage of a project.