Case Studies: Tradespeople

Building Inspector Successfully Defends License Charge of Falsifying Records

The department of licensing and regulatory affairs for a Great Lakes state issued disciplinary charges against a state-registered local-government building inspector. The charges alleged that the building inspector had accepted favors and submitted to influence to falsely represent certain residential and commercial structures as code compliant. The notice demanded that the building inspector appear at a hearing in two weeks to answer the charges or lose registration and employment. Suspecting the undisclosed source of the allegations, the building inspector retained the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team to prepare for the hearing. The Firm obtained the department's disclosure of the complaint serving as the basis for the charges. The complaint was indeed from three tradesmen who claimed that the building inspector favored competitor tradesmen in approving job progress and certificates of occupancy. The Lento Law Firm Team and client building inspector appeared for the hearing with multiple witness attestations and substantial documentation that the building inspector approved only code-compliant work. The defense presentation further showed that the building inspector had properly refused to approve the complaining contractors' non-compliant work. Aware that the building inspector had retained skilled and experienced license defense counsel, only one of the three complaining contractors appeared at the hearing. The contractor admitted under cross-examination that the complaints were speculative. The department dismissed the charges, and the building inspector retained all employment relationships. The defense strategy of undermining the credibility of speculative allegations succeeded.

Professional Land Surveyor Defeats Allegations of Unlicensed and Unsupervised Work

The department of professional regulation and licensing for a North Central state notified a licensed professional land surveyor of disciplinary charges. The charges alleged that the land surveyor had employed crews of unlicensed and unsupervised workers to perform surveying work. The charges further alleged that regulations required a licensed surveyor to perform the work or supervise the work if performed by unlicensed others. The charges did not detail the time or place of the alleged unauthorized surveying work. The surveyor's inquiries to department officials did not result in a specification of the charges. With the scheduled hearing on the charges approaching and the surveyor at a loss to know how to defend the vague charges, the surveyor retained the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team. The Defense Team invoked state administrative procedures to get department officials to specify the charges and disclose their allegedly inculpatory evidence. That evidence consisted of a competing surveyor's general allegations as to certain surveying jobs. Those disclosures enabled the Defense Team to help the client supervisor assemble proof that the client supervisor had indeed closely supervised the unlicensed but reasonably skilled crews performing the disputed surveying work. The Team's cross-examination of the competing surveyor at the disciplinary hearing illustrated that the competing surveyor lacked first-hand observations to support the general allegations. The Team's contrary presentation of the client surveyor's testimony and document convinced the hearing panel to dismiss the charges.

Landscape Architect Retains License Against Fraudulent Services Charges

The architecture division of a Northeast state's office of professions issued disciplinary charges against a landscape architect. The charges alleged that the landscape architect had provided fraudulent services to a wealthy business owner seeking to complete the lavish grounds of a corporate headquarters. The charges further alleged that the landscape architect had illustrated, specified, approved, and certified the installation of rare decorative trees, bushes, boulders, and plantings when instead, the items were common, diseased, incomplete, and ugly. The charges alleged that the landscape architect had billed and induced payment for the misrepresented items in a deliberately fraudulent manner. The business owner had leveled the charges with the architecture division after threatening to ruin the landscape architect's career if she didn't return the allegedly unearned fees for the job. With her license, livelihood, reputation, and career all at risk, the landscape architect retained the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team. The Defense Team and client landscape architect agreed to pursue a readily provable defense that the items were exactly as specified and illustrated but needed time to root and flower to appear as properly and accurately represented. The Defense Team helped the landscape architect build a catalog of invoices, receipts, photo images, expert opinions, and other evidence proving the landscape architect's defense. The Defense Team shared that documentation with the hearing officials and the business owner's corporate counsel. On the eve of the disciplinary hearing, the business owner's corporate counsel withdrew the business owner's complaint.

Plumber Retains License After Allegations of Failure to Maintain a License and Unlicensed Work

The division of licensing and regulatory affairs of a Central Plains state notified a licensed plumber of disciplinary charges. The charges threatened to revoke the plumber's license for failure to correct or amend the business entity or assumed name under which the plumber worked. The charges further alleged that the plumber had performed or assisted in the performing of unlicensed work. Confused by the charges, which did not specify the plumber's alleged failures and violations, the plumber retained the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team. The Firm helped the plumber confirm the document the business entities for which and through which the plumber had ever worked under the plumber's license in the state. The Firm's Defense Team further researched the details of the regulatory scheme under which the division claimed to have brought the charges. The Defense Team discerned that the plumber had arguably complied with the regulatory scheme and that any arguable non-compliance was of a technical rather than substantive nature. The plumber had never misrepresented his licensure, his employer, or his own business entity and assumed names. The plumber had lawfully formed his business entity and filed appropriate papers disclosing his entity's only assumed name. The investigation further showed that other plumbing companies for whom and through whom the plumber had worked had not similarly complied. The Team presented the documentation and information at a pre-hearing conference, following which the division notified the Defense Team and client plumber that it had dismissed the complaint.

Professional Geologist Defends Charges of Reckless Misconduct

The Board of Geology for a Mountain West state notified a licensed geologist of disciplinary charges. The charges alleged that the geologist had engaged in grossly negligent and reckless behavior in the course of approving a blasting and mining plan. The charges related to serious injuries that several miners had sustained when blasting and mining had left unstable formations the workers' vehicles had traversed, triggering rock slides that rolled and partially crushed the vehicles. The geologist had, in fact, approved the blasting and mining plan but had not recommended, approved, or been aware of the workers traversing the resulting formations in vehicles without preparatory road work. When the geologist's employer declined to retain defense counsel to represent the geologist in the license proceeding, the geologist retained the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team. The Defense Team obtained statements from the injured workers and their supervisors regarding the vehicle route and operation, confirming that they had not consulted or relied on the geologist or his work to traverse the unstable formations. Those statements and the geologist's own records and attested account convinced the Board of Geology to dismiss the charges. The Defense Team then helped the geologist submit a claim to his employer for reimbursement for defense costs, which the employer approved. The geologist suffered no discipline, no defense costs, and no loss of employment or income.


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