Need to be tougher on members

“There have long been calls for reform (to self-regulation in Ontario) and they are getting louder. They include demands to scrap self-regulation.” 
Toronto Star, March 26, 2018.

The following is my summary of the seven disciplinary matters brought to the Discipline Committee against five PEO members that resulted in panel decisions as reported in the March/April 2018 issue of Engineering Dimensions:

  1. All five members brought before the Discipline Committee either plead guilty or were found guilty of professional misconduct.
  2. Licence suspensions were: five months, two suspensions for two weeks, one week (despite the member’s action resulting in the serious injury of a worker that required surgery) and no suspension (despite three incidents before the Discipline Committee in 1982, 2015 and 2017).

The perceived leniency of the Discipline Committee panels from the above-mentioned matters is clearly cause for concern. My greater concern is that the disciplinary hearing decisions published in Engineering Dimensions represent an exceedingly small percentage of the complaints that arrive at PEO every year. My understanding is that these complaints are reviewed by the Complaints Committee and evaluated for disposition (i.e. dismissed, further evaluated, investigated or referred to the Discipline Committee). I can only hope that the Complaints Committee is forwarding all complaints to the Discipline Committee that deserve their attention. The final decision on whether a disciplinary hearing is warranted should be the Discipline Committee’s, not the Complaints Committee’s, otherwise matters requiring disciplinary measures may be overlooked. This and weak penalties from Discipline Committee hearings will be sources of public criticism of the ability of our profession to self-regulate. 

PEO members (and the public) deserve to know the total number of complaints received by PEO each year and the disposition of each type of complaint by both the Complaints Committee and the Discipline Committee by type of outcome. Further, both the Complaints Committee and the Discipline Committee should have half of their members from outside the profession to demonstrate independence from the influence of PEO members on both the individual committees and their panels and to ensure appropriate penalties are consistently handed down. As a self-regulated profession, we need to be seen as tough or even tougher on disciplining our members than other independent members of the public would be if we want to be proactive and remain a self-regulated profession.

David J. BaigentP.Eng., Burlington, ON