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Evidence of JCI's use of unlicensed professionals in violation of the law

March 30, 2008

Weekly Reader

Letter to the Editor,

I would like to thank the Reader in doing some real reporting on the Red Plan.  You have done more journalistic inquiry on this than any newspaper in the Twin Ports.

I would like to comment on the Reader’s question to Dixon about the School District using unlicensed architects and engineers.  Dixon responded by verifying that a principal architect in writing the Red Plan was Chris Gibbs, and that he is not a registered architect in Minnesota.  And Dixon even bragged about that fact.  Unbelievable.  It is noteworthy that when Dixon is talking about Gibbs, he is quoting verbatim from the Gibbs’ resume that JCI supplied.  Dixon should have verified all of Gibbs’ claims.

 For the School District to use Gibbs as an architect is a violation of  Minnesota law Chapter 326.02.which states:

In order to safeguard life, health, and property, and to promote the public welfare, any person in either public or private capacity practicing, or offering to practice, architecture, professional engineering,… in this state, …shall be licensed or certified… It shall be unlawful for any person to practice, or to offer to practice, in this state, architecture, professional engineering,,,, unless such person is qualified by licensure or certification under sections 326.02 to 326.15.

No person, except an architect, engineer,…licensed or certified…shall practice architecture,  [or] professional engineering….in the preparation of plans, specifications, reports….

Dixon has now publicly brought forward the name of one of the unregistered architects that the School District has used.  But he failed to list several others.  According to the JCI January 24, 2006 response to the School District ’s Request For Proposal (RFP), Harold Lerner  is listed as being on the JCI design team and is identified with "AIA" (American Institute of Architects).    Another is Mark Beyer who is listed as a "PE" (Professional Engineer).  These are also violations of Minnesota law Chapter 326 as neither of these people are registered by the State of Minnesota .

The JCI January 24 proposal  had sixteen listed members of the JCI design team.  Of those,  eight are listed as engineers or architects, two are falsely listed as professional engineers or registered architects, and only two of the eight are licensed Professional Engineers  in Minnesota and it included no Registered Architects.

JCI's front engineer, Jeff Schiltz, is not a licensed Professional Engineer in Minnesota.  Nor is Michael David who appeared to be JCI's principal engineer in compiling the Long Range Facilities Plan. Technically, Schiltz and David's appearance on the JCI design team may not be a violation of MN Statue Chapter 326, but they used the initials "ME" which has no professional qualification or  meaning, but is misleading to the lay public, like the School District.   Schliltz and David have signed the JCI proposal and Master Agreement for JCI and the School District.  There is also a question on whether JCI has violated MN Statue Chapter 326.14 which says:

A corporation, partnership or other firm may engage in work of an architectural or
engineering character, provided the person or persons connected with such
corporation, partnership or other firm in responsible charge of such work is or are licensed or certified as herein required for the practice of architecture,[and] engineering…

Are all these unlicensed engineers and architects  merely an insignificant oversight by the School District and JCI?  Or this a sign of sloppy work, poor contract administration, or a lack of understanding by an agency that we have vested with the trust of wisely spending $293 million of our taxpayers’ money?  And is JCI, a large engineering firm, routinely in the business of using unlicensed engineers and architects in large public works projects?  The School District  routinely hires certified teachers, and they should know the rules about professional qualifications.

A School District administrator has personally told me that they do not want licensed engineers or architects working for the School District, and they will have no engineers or architects on staff.  The results of this can be seen in the shoddy work that they have done in formulating the Red Plan and administering the JCI contract.  When it comes to hiring their multitude of headhunter lawyers and real estate agents you can bet that the School District hires licensed or properly certified individuals and pay them premium dollars

Compare the high price they are paying for lawyers to the  bargain basement dollars they brag about paying JCI for the Red Plan.  Apparently the School District does not know the oldest construction trick in the book that once JCI gets the contract, they will be locking into windfall profits in the construction phase.

Nancy Nilsen, the School Board Chair, states in her Weekly Reader column that in January of 2006, eight consultants submitted proposals to the School District and that JCI was clearly the best choice.   Did the School District know at that time that two of the qualifications of the submitted JCI team were false and that others were misleading? And that none of the apparent responsible persons in charge of such work  were going to be licensed engineers or architects in Minnesota?

In light of this attitude by the School District, the false information in the JCI RFP proposal, the apparent violation of Minnesota Statues, and the cavalier attitude by the School District toward public safety credentials by their selected design professionals, I request the School Board stop the Red Plan, and have an independent legal review of the contract and the contract administration being done by School District 709.

Art Johnston

Duluth, MN

626 1997

  Art Johnston is a licensed Professional Engineer in the states of
Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida. He has recently moved to Duluth.  He has
Degrees in Mathematics from UW, Superior; and Civil Engineering from
Michigan Technological University. He works for the Federal government.

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