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Schroeder v. State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors

November 2, 2004

LAUREN A. SCHROEDER, APPELLANT-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE BOARD OF REGISTRATION FOR PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS AND SURVEYORS, APPELLEE-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. (C.P.C. No. 03CVF06-07204)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: French, J.

(REGULAR CALENDAR)

OPINION

{¶1} Appellant, Lauren A. Schroeder, appeals from a judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, which affirmed an order of appellee, the Ohio State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors ("Board"), finding appellant violated R.C. 4733.22 by engaging in the practice of engineering without being registered as a professional engineer with the Board.

{¶2} Appellant holds a Ph.D. in biology and is a retired biology professor from Youngstown State University. In 2001, appellant prepared a position paper on behalf of the Mahoning River Consortium ("MRC"), a non-profit organization dedicated to environmental causes in the Mahoning River Valley area. In his three-page essay, entitled "North Road Improvement Project: Potential Environmental Impact on Mosquito Creek and Associated Wetlands," appellant addressed the environmental impact a proposed road construction project would have on the area, focusing upon, among other things, how the new road could impact storm water run-off in the area. To prepare the paper, appellant visited the site, interviewed various individuals connected with the project, reviewed pertinent documents, drawings and blueprints, and performed mathematical calculations. Although appellant did not attend a public hearing held by the Trumbull County Engineer's office addressing the proposed road improvement, the MRC provided the paper to the engineer's office. Upon reading the paper, Randall L. Smith, a deputy engineer for the county, informed the Board it was the opinion of the engineer's office that appellant was practicing engineering without proper credentials.

{¶3} In May 2002, the Board sent appellant a letter warning him that his preparation of the paper may constitute the practice of engineering, and appellant responded with a letter in which he disagreed with the Board's position. The Board referred the matter to its hearing examiner who held a hearing in the presence of the Board in January 2003. In his Report and Recommendation, filed in March 2003, the hearing examiner stated:

The State has asserted in a letter to Dr. Schroeder that he has engaged in some practices that may constitute the practice of engineering in violation of R.C. 4733.01, et seq.

Dr. Schroeder requested a hearing after the State informed him that he had a right to a hearing because he objected to the Board's "decision" that the MRC report constituted the practice of engineering without a license. The State has not, however, brought any charges against Dr. Schroeder. * * * Accordingly, the hearing officer finds that without there being any charges against Dr. Schroeder, there is no finding of a violation to be made.

If, however, the Board believes that Dr. Schroeder is in fact engaging in the unauthorized practice of engineering, the Board has the authority to apply for relief by injunction or restraining order. * * * * * * Based on the foregoing, it is this hearing officer's recommendation that the matter be dismissed and that the Board consider invoking its authority under R.C. 4733.23 if it believes that Dr. Schroeder is currently violating R.C.

4733.01, et seq.

{¶4} Addressing this report and recommendation, the Board's final order stated:

* * * The Board hereby finds that the Conclusions of Law are insufficient in that the Board finds that Respondent performed acts that minimally fall within the practice of engineering, which include but are not limited to issues dealing with drainage, storm water discharges, storm water flows and the effects of same, but the Board concludes the acts do not rise to the level that warrant further action by the Board.

{¶5} Appellant disagreed with the Board's conclusion that his actions in preparing the essay minimally fell within the statutory definition of the practice of engineering. In June 2003, appellant filed an administrative appeal in the trial court pursuant to R.C. 119.12. That court reviewed the evidence before the Board and concluded that the Board had before it reliable, probative, and substantial evidence supporting its conclusion that appellant had engaged in the practice of engineering. The court stated, in part:

* * * For this Court to second-guess the expertise of the Board members and Randy Smith, the only [other] professional engineer to testify at the hearing, would violate the well-recognized standard of due deference that must be allowed to the Board in its ...


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