Looks to Me Like You’ve Been Doing Some Unlicensed Figurin’

Friday, February 4th, 2011

A citizen in Raleigh, North Carolina presented the city a proposal to install traffic lights near his home. One city official responded by calling for the citizen to be investigated for what basically amounts to doing math without a license.

Cox and his North Raleigh neighbors are lobbying city and state officials to add traffic signals at two intersections as part of a planned widening of Falls of Neuse Road.

After an engineering consultant hired by the city said that the signals were not needed, Cox and the North Raleigh Coalition of Homeowners’ Associations responded with a sophisticated analysis of their own…

The eight-page document with maps, diagrams and traffic projections was offered to buttress their contention that signals will be needed at the Falls of Neuse at Coolmore Drive intersection and where the road meets Tabriz Point / Lake Villa Way.

It did not persuade Kevin Lacy, chief traffic engineer for the state DOT, to change his mind about the project. Instead, Lacy called on a state licensing agency, the N.C. Board of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors, to investigate Cox…

Cox has not been accused of claiming that he is an engineer. But Lacy says he filed the complaint because the report “appears to be engineering-level work” by someone who is not licensed as a professional engineer…

Lacy said he had told the group last year that it should hire an engineer to make its case. He said he was surprised to see engineering-quality work in a report that was not signed by a licensed professional.

“When you start applying the principles for trip generation and route assignment, applying judgments from engineering documents and national standards, and making recommendations,” that’s technical work a licensed engineer would do, Lacy said.

Lacy is right. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if we let just regular, unlicensed people use sophisticated arguments when petitioning their government.

(Thanks to Michael Chaney for the link.)

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42 Responses to “Looks to Me Like You’ve Been Doing Some Unlicensed Figurin’”

  1. #1 |  EH | 

    If he didn’t sign it as a PE then there’s no issue.

  2. #2 |  Andrew S. | 

    If only there was some document, like a Constitution say, some governing document for the government that, I dunno, expressly states that the people have the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    Alas, we don’t. I’ve heard rumors that such a document existed in the before time, in the long long ago. But I’ve never seen any evidence.

  3. #3 |  Highway | 

    Can’t just say “Hey, that’s a good analysis, we’ll need to recheck it”. No, it’s gotta be a case of protectionism because someone didn’t certify it. Maybe they don’t care if it’s certified, jackass.

    Maybe Mr. Lacy should realize that if one of the homeowners in the area, or a friend of theirs, *is* a PE, but works for a company that doesn’t allow moonlighting, then he could do the work, but wouldn’t certify it because that involves liability issues.

    Bottom line: Like EH said, it’s not presented as the work of a licensed professional, so it doesn’t have to be done by a licensed professional.

  4. #4 |  CRNewsom | 

    As a licensed PE, I find Lacys complaint appalling and would write the state board to see him sanctioned the standard fine of $2500.

    Just because an engineer *can* generate such reports does not mean that such reports *require* the use of an engineer.

  5. #5 |  Highway | 

    Actually, I wonder if it’s more that the highway dept guy is going “Oh, man, this study looks *way* more well done than our crappy study. What can we do to deflect criticism away from our highway department and our favored consultant who did the original crummy report? hmmm…. I know! We’ll turn it around and say they didn’t have a license!”

  6. #6 |  Chuchundra | 

    When will these terrorists stop threatening us with weapons of math instruction?

  7. #7 |  M. Steve | 

    As technology continues breaking down real barriers to information and education, expect to see “this sort of thing” skyrocket, as informed, skilled, and talented individuals bypass the artificial barriers erected by state licensing boards and professional associations. Next stop: the AMA and state bar associations.

  8. #8 |  CRNewsom | 

    The big difference between engineering boards and the AMA or state bar association is that you don’t require an engineering license to be an engineer.

    A license for engineering is only required when:
    – Working for the state or on state projects
    – As a stipulation of a contract
    – Building plans, ASME Section VIII Division *2 or 3* pressure vessels, etc.
    – For business name purposes*

    *Anyone can run a company called John Doe Engineering, but for the company to be called Doe Engineering or Doe Engineering Associates, a licensed PE must be on staff.

  9. #9 |  Stephen | 

    How dare someone have an unlicensed brain! This must be stopped immediately!

  10. #10 |  Rhayader | 

    Shit, I’m an unlicensed engineer living in the Raleigh area. I better be extra careful not to do any work that anybody notices.

    Seriously though, what a douche. If there’s a problem with the analysis itself, use your professionally licensed engineering acumen to identify and explain it. Otherwise, put your head back into your ass.

  11. #11 |  perlhaqr | 


  12. #12 |  scott | 

    From the article:

    “Andrew L. Ritter, executive director of the engineers licensing board, said it will take three or four months to investigate Lacy’s allegation against Cox. He said there is a potential for violation if DOT and the public were misled by “engineering-quality work”- even if the authors did not claim to be engineers.”

    I’ve been lamenting the demise of tarring and feathering but this makes me think that perhaps we should adopt a policy of kicking folks like Mssrs. Ritter and Lacy right in the nuts. Now I have to worry about running afoul of state licensing agencies when I paint my living room, work on my irrigation system, or cut my son’s hair.

  13. #13 |  Kevin | 

    Lacy’s comments sound all legal and lawyer-like. I don’t see it stated anywhere that he’s a lawyer, so he appears to be practicing law without a license.

  14. #14 |  derfel cadarn | 

    This is further proof that government is the problem and should be banned. From a public safety point government all at all levels kills or endangers more citizens than almost any other cause,its carbon footprint is humongous with little or no redeeming social value. As a earlier reply mentioned the head in ass syndrome is rampant amongst said government employees. And yes nut kicking does appear to be a viable option.

  15. #15 |  M | 

    As an unlicensed engineer, I would have responded that it’s a hell of a lot better than “engineering level work”, it’s science level work. Sciencing without a license would be a much better charge. And it’s not like he’s signing off on a building plan or structural analysis of the road bed, he’s just analyzing traffic.

    Plus, how can you be mis-led by “quality work”? You can’t because the quality would mean that it’s accurate.

  16. #16 |  Jay | 

    This cannot be tolerated. Think of the children. Next, DOT Tool Kevin Lacy is going to outlaw unlicensed sarcasm, vowels and prime numbers. He should be responsible for the cost of investigating something that has absolutely no need to be investigated.

  17. #17 |  Bart | 

    Government agencies are requiring a professional engineer certify just about every application for a permit or entitlement these days.

    As a licensed professional engineer in California and Florida, I can tell you 99% of engineers don’t want to have to charge a local resident to permit his new driveway, or request for a variance.

    It is the government’s way of controlling what you can and can’t do while not taking responsibility for the safety / effectiveness of what they require. (Its the engineer’s job to say what the government is requiring is safe – even when the engineer would rather do it a different way.)

    In regards to this story: As far as I am concerned if you are capable of doing the work you should be allowed to do it – even charge for it.

    The only thing you should not be allowed to do is present yourself as a professional engineer – as that is a licensed term.

    I see no indication that has happened here.

  18. #18 |  InMD | 

    It’s pretty frustrating to see this sort of reaction when citizens are making a reasonable request for the government to do something well within its mandate.

  19. #19 |  Mattocracy | 

    Just wait until you can’t use your camera without a license, have sex without a license, or argue your rights without being a licensed constitutional authority.

  20. #20 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Somebody needs to investigate Mr. Lacy. If he is not licensed as a clown or a sideshow pinhead, he should be fined.

  21. #21 |  Marty | 

    my plumber says my ‘unlicensed figurin’ is still ok.

  22. #22 |  cw | 

    Andrew S. | February 4th, 2011 at 5:01 pm >
    > If only there was some document, like a Constitution say,…

    Yup but, that’s the problem, Andrew, there IS a document and, as a document, it’s just “ink on paper.” It has proven to be utterly worthless!

  23. #23 |  the innominate one | 

    Yo, fuck Kevin Lacy.

    Also, chuchundra ftw!

  24. #24 |  OBTC | 

    Anyone game for NATIONAL public ridicule?

    Search Results for: First Name – ‘Kevin’ AND Last Name – ‘Lacy’


  25. #25 |  thorn | 

    I’m reminded of people being prevented from setting up an Interior Design business unless they’ve been issued a license from the Interior Design Cartel.

  26. #26 |  Nick T. | 

    Just…. come on…. this… this has to be a joke right? Please?

    I think I quit.

  27. #27 |  Judas Peckerwood | 

    That’s a completely out-of-bounds comment, croaker. You are NOT a licensed landscaper.

  28. #28 |  c andrew | 

    Or, for that matter, a licensed tree-waterer. The water board says that for advocating unlicensed watering you shall be subject to water boarding. Or water boring. or something. Hell, I’m a buttrocrat and I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

    (Re-inserts head now. Shuts up.)

  29. #29 |  c andrew | 

    Actually, JP illustrates that brevity IS the soul of wit. Kudos!

  30. #30 |  Marlon Perkins | 

    Hey! It ain’t FIGURIN’, y’ignramus. It’s CYPHERIN’!

  31. #31 |  croaker | 

    Does it count as “watering” if you do it with the blood of a tyrant?

  32. #32 |  Dan | 

    Andrew L. Ritter, executive director of the engineers licensing board, said it will take three or four months to investigate Lacy’s allegation against Cox. He said there is a potential for violation if DOT and the public were misled by “engineering-quality work”- even if the authors did not claim to be engineers.

    Wow. Now it’s “xxx-quality” that defines violations. So if my interior designer is not licensed through ASID and does interior designer-quality work, that is cause for a complaint and investigation. So what if I am color-blind, does that work count?

  33. #33 |  Michael Chaney | 

    There’s now a good followup over at Instapundit. The story gets worse (but predictable) as the state has a chance to back away and instead circles the wagons.


  34. #34 |  Nathania Johnson | 

    Citizens are generally good at identifying intersections that need stoplights without all the science and engineering. Think about all the news reports of new stoplights being added at such and such intersection when a death occurs from a traffic accident. Always, there are comments from people who live near the intersection who’ve “been saying for years” that they need a stoplight there.

    On a local note, Falls of the Neuse is already widened south of this area (has been for decades) and is full of stoplights. The request of the citizens is extremely reasonable and in keeping with what already exists along this road.

  35. #35 |  TC | 

    Sounds like a high paid govt employed engineer got outed for being a village idiot that the village pays for!

    Mirror mirror on the wall,,, Who’s the best in all the land? yadayadayadayada!

    I hope that Lacy is ripping open his own can of worms and gets to eat them in open court!

  36. #36 |  J.S. | 

    Damn uppity serfs. The government approved are the “only ones” allowed to speak and proffer analysis.

  37. #37 |  Highway | 

    I wonder if most people who would read a story like that really understand that there’s a difference between Professional Engineering licensing in practice and pretty much every other state licensing. Or would they just look at it like all the other licensing that people are forced to get before they can even practice in a field (obviously Mr. Lacy believes this)?

    Like a hairdresser’s license, or a liquor license, or a contractor’s license, nearly every other license is viewed as a requirement for *any* involvement in a field. But PE licenses just aren’t like that (in current practice anyway. I know that there are probably some folks who are trying to push them towards more of a limiting credentialing scheme). Even if a client requires certification, that certification is tied to a person who may or may not do the work, but is putting their professional reputation on the line to certify it. But unless the *client* requires that, it isn’t required.

    The attitude of folks like Mr. Lacy is just abhorrent to me.

  38. #38 |  tb | 

    I feel the need to point out that all of you here thinking and reasoning about this situation and debating the totality of Kevin Lacy’s asshattery are guilty of unlicensed figurin’.

  39. #39 |  Kevin Carson | 

    So a citizen who even displays competence and familiarity with the relevant body of knowledge in advocating a policy to public representatives is violating the professional licensing system?

    That officious busybody Lacy needs to be slapped down until he’s lying in a puddle of his own urine and puke, dazedly staring up at the sun and wondering “wha’ the fuck happened?”

    It’s obvious that Cox wasn’t doing it for money, or competing with any licensed professional. So if there are any relevant legal sanctions available for frivolous prosecution, he should break it off in Lacy with extreme prejudice.

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  41. #41 |  albatross | 

    Knowing nothing about this case, just guessing, I suspect the guy raising this complaint knows or suspects that there is a PE moonlighting in violation of his employer’s policies behind these arguments. And he hopes to shake that information out, and maybe make opposing the city’s plans more expensive by causing that person some trouble.

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    […] militarization, Obama’s pursuit of whistleblowers, regulations which make it illegal to do math without a license, and many other freedom-snuffing things. But the kind of stuff that gets me most riled up are laws […]