Charles Landers, unlicensed engineer for constructing engineers forged his partner Henry Wilson’s signature and used his professional seal on at least 40 documents. The falsified documents certified to the Anchorage City Health Department that local septic systems met all city waste water disposal regulations. No violations of standards except for the forgery and misuse of the seal were reported. The circuit judge Michael Wolverton in his judgment banned Landers for one year from practicing as an engineer’s assistant. Furthermore, he sentenced him to 20 days in jail, 160 hours of community service, $4000 in fines and a year on probation. The judge cited that Landers’ actions constituted a breach of public trust as the public relies on the word of professional engineers to ensure the safety of systems (Harris, Pritchard and Rabins 282-283).
Ethically important elements in the case The first important element is that of forgery of signatures and unauthorized use of an engineer’s seal. This is not only wrong in engineering but also in other professions where specialized professionals are required to provide their expertise on an issue. This can lead to destruction of property, loss of lives and reputational damage to the profession among others. The second element is the aspect of canvassing and behaving like a competent engineer while in the real sense one is not. This amounts to deceiving the public for purposes of individual gains, which is unethical as this could still have far reaching consequences because a violation of standards may be experienced. The third element concerns relationship with fellow engineers such that they are supposed to respect one another in the provision of their services. The relationship is important for personal and also for professional growth. Importance of reviewing the falsified documents Subsequent review of documents found to have been falsified is very important in the engineering profession because it is used to verify that there were no violations of engineering standards at that the public safety was not compromised. Compromised systems would mean a cancellation of the entire project to protect the public from injury (Chang 43). KEY ISSUE The fifth fundamental canon of the national society of professional engineers states that: “Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall: avoid deceptive acts.” The unlicensed assistant engineer in this case deceived the public a who he is supposed to “hold Paramount [their] safety, health and welfare…” (NSPE) OPINION/VIEWPOINT The concept of falsifying documents is ethically wrong and illegal. Forging a signature and using a professional’s seal to certify documents is a criminal activity that must not be tolerated. Engineers’ first responsibility is to the public. Their professional responsibility is to ensure safety and quality. Falsifying documents only serves the interests of the engineer in question but does not look at the reputation of the profession neither does it look at the consequences that might arise from such a situation. In my view the penalty that was imposed on Charles Landers for the misconduct was very lenient. This is due to the fact that first he used