This is the April 2020 edition of PDHengineer’s monthly series of Ethics case studies titled What Do You Think? This series is comprised of case studies from NSPE archives, involving both real and hypothetical matters submitted by engineers, public officials and members of the public.

Your peers and the NSPE Board of Ethical Review have reviewed the facts of the case as shown below. And, here are the results.

Your opinion has been registered for the April 2020 edition of PDHengineer’s monthly series of Ethics case studies titled What Do You Think?

Your vote is recorded as:

It is ethical
Want to know how your peers voted? We’ll send you an email with the poll results on April 28.

Your opinion has been registered for the April 2020 edition of PDHengineer’s monthly series of Ethics case studies titled What Do You Think?

Your vote is recorded as:

It is not ethical
Want to know how your peers voted? We’ll send you an email with the poll results on April 28.

A Review of the Facts

An owner is in the process of selecting an engineering firm to perform design services in connection with the construction of a manufacturing facility. The owner employs a qualifications-based selection procedure in which firms submit their information and the best-qualified firm is selected, subject to fee negotiations. The owner selects Engineer Mark to perform design services, and then contracts Engineer Greg to assist with negotiations. Engineer Greg is the principal in one of the firms that was not selected, and he agrees to assist the owner.

Was it ethical for Greg to agree to assist the owner in its negotiations with Mark?

Here is the result of our survey of your peers:

60% Not Ethical; 40% Ethical

Applicable NSPE Code References:
Code II.4.a: Engineers shall disclose all known or potential conflicts of interest that could influence or appear to influence their judgment or the quality of their services.
Code III.1.e: Engineers shall not promote their own interest at the expense of the dignity and integrity of the profession.
Code Code III.6: Engineers shall not attempt to obtain employment or advancement or professional engagements by untruthfully criticizing other engineers, or by other improper or questionable methods.
Code III.7.a: Engineers in private practice shall not review the work of another engineer for the same client, except with the knowledge of such engineer, or unless the connection of such engineer with the work has been terminated.

Discussion

The facts in this case are unique and such a case has never been considered before by the Board. The Preamble requires that services by engineers be with “…honesty, impartiality, fairness and equity…” We find it difficult to believe that Greg can approach the negotiations complying with this criteria after losing the assignment to Mark. The facts do not indicate that Greg has disqualified himself from future considerations should the owner fail to negotiate a satisfactory fee arrangement. It is conceivable, therefore, that Greg might have another opportunity for this assignment; hence, possibly affecting his impartiality. Under this circumstance there can be a perception that Greg could be in violation of Code III.7.

While the owner and Mark are aware of Greg’s prior involvement in the selection process, Greg apparently has not withdrawn from future consideration for this assignment and other future assignments for this owner. Code II.4.a calls on the engineer to “disclose all known or potential conflicts of interest that could influence or appear to influence their judgment or the quality of their services.” It is not enough for Greg to assume that all parties are aware of his potential conflict of interest. The Code clearly requires the engineer to call this to the attention of all parties.

Code III.1.e. requires the engineer to “avoid any act tending to promote their own inte