SBOA Report — May 2016
The State Board of Architect met in April, 2016 with a change in membership:
Kevin G. Sneed, AIA, IIDA, CDT, LEED AP BD+C, Partner and Director of Architecture at OTJ ARCHITECTS, in Washington, D.C. and resident of Silver Spring, Maryland, is the new architect Member of the SBOA. Mr. Sneed had previously served as the (required) architect member of the Maryland Interior Design Board, so he is familiar with the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation and the workings of the design boards.
Mr. Sneed replaces Steve Parker, AIA, who had held the seat for 17 years. Steve’s tenure on the SBOA was marked by his service for many of those years as Chair, as well as positions of increasing responsibility leading to service on the Board of Directors of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. Mr. Parker was on the tenure track leading to the Presidency of NCARB, but the arrival of grandchildren on the west coast caused him to simplify his life by leaving that NCARB trajectory and all the travel it would have entailed.
Steve has contributed much to our profession and to the school children of Maryland, a significant percentage of whom attend schools designed by Grimm + Parker, a firm that has more than quintupled in size and has won countless design awards under his leadership.
Maryland has profited by having many notable architects like Steve serve on the SBOA, with members who have won design awards while creating many significant additions to our built environment, so Mr. Sneed joins a Board with many accomplished members. Some states where governors appoint unknown architects of modest ability to leadership are not so lucky.
Could there possibly be a downside to the presence on the SBOA of such successful leaders?
When any human is at the top of whatever heap, that person can be so consumed by all the great burdens of high office, that distraction from concern for those less successful is nearly certain.
Thus, the woes of those Maryland architects at the bottom of the heap, that is the tiny and solo practices 200 or so of which scratch a living from serving clients who are also in the lower socioeconomic strata, are nearly impossible for those at the top of the heap to comprehend.
This has created an unintended but unholy alliance between SBOA and the ambitious advocates of the engineering profession, especially those P.E.s in the County Permit Bureaus. An example is the MEMO published in 1996 and reaffirmed by the SBOA in 2002, clearly interpreting the “integral parts” language (still in the Architects’ Law today) to mean that architects can protect the public health, safety, and welfare by designing lintels, beams, columns, joists, wires, pipes cables, ducts, and mechanical and electrical equipment while signing and sealing the same.
But, in establishing the Overlapping Practice Panels, the Joint Chairs of the Design Boards have devised a mechanism, (not mentioned in law and therefore immune from due process and appeal except through the court $y$tem) which meets in secret and declares architects incapable of designing buildings’ integral parts. SBOA then tacitly accepts the “Panels” rulings and thus ignores the clear provisions of the Architects’ Law that they had defended in 1996 and 2002.
As a result, a restraint of trade exists for Maryland Citizens looking to secure building design services. Residents of nearby states, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia can hire an architect to design and seal the entire building for one fee, while Maryland residents are forced by the SBOA acquiescence to the overlapping Practice Panels’ rulings to pay fees to several P.E.s as well as their architect, to sign and seal components of buildings for even the tiniest build out or addition for the least well-off clients.
No evidence has been presented that buildings with all components designed by architects are collapsing, nor freezing, nor parboiling, nor electrocuting their occupants in the surrounding states. This shows that the public health and safety is not better served in Maryland by the restraint of trade and increased fees are prevailing.
It is precisely this arbitrary restraint of trade with no evidence of a concomitant increase in public safety gained thereby, that got the North Carolina Dentists in trouble with the US Supreme Court. The Tarheel Dentists had chased all the non-dentist Tooth Whiteners out of the shopping malls of North Carolina, the Federal Trade Commission then sued the Dentists for restraint of trade, and the high court agreed, 6-3. Incidentally, the late Justice Scalia was one of the 3, so the court’s support of the FTC’s contention, already clear, will be certain in the future.
This then led to the overreaction in the recent session of the Maryland Legislature where Senate Bill 1083 sought to add unneeded protections – and untold bureaucratic expense and delay – to the regulation of all professionals in the State.
This unneeded bill died in the House of Delegates, but the alarmist presentation of the Maryland Assistant Attorney General that if Senate Bill 1083 were not passed, many Maryland Board Members would be ruined by lawsuits for triple damages, has made a profound impression on legislators who are likely to present the same or similar counterproductive bills in the future.
Many lawyers have pointed out that Senate Bill 1083 was redundant, since Maryland’s DLLR already exercises sufficient authority over its Boards, like the SBOA, that those boards are covered by the Sovereign Immunity granted the States from Federal actions. But those lawyers have missed something; imagine how the attorneys at the Federal Trade Commission would react to the restraint of trade granted engineers by the Maryland Overlapping Practice Panels.