Ethics and the Standards Uprising Moderator: Ken Gold, RPLS
Abstract: In the late 1940’s through the 1970’s, Texas, generally, and the nation as a whole, saw a professional conscience stirring among surveying practitioners. That stirring focused on unethical to sometimes criminal conduct by persons holding themselves out to be land surveyors. Registration had not been enough. Everything from simply incompetent to grossly fraudulent, so called “practice” endangered the public’s valued holdings. There were no uniform standards. Little to no investigative force. Little to nothing by which competence could be measured. Often closurealone was the criteria. The Texas profession, at first hesitant to act, decided to identify proper surveying procedures and create plateaus of practice from which its land surveyors shall not deviate. This presentation is a summary of how we got here. And why Ethics played a big role!
Except for LSLS’s and PE’s, before, during and just after WWII, virtually anyone with a transit (or compass) and tape could be a “surveyor.” To differentiate the competent from the incompetent was difficult. And often too late.
This is the story of how the Texas Surveyors Association, urged by conscientious members, came to forge ahead and develop a series of voluntary professional standards, training aides and the basis for TBPLS mandatory minimum standards . . . It is the story of our Manual of Practice.
Dedicated practitioners debated on how to correct unprofessional situations. Business challenges such as; Unfair competition, Incompetent practitioners, Incomplete to Illegal surveys, Part-timers with borrowed equipment, Honest, but unskilled practitioners and . . . Those that didn’t know . . . they didn’t know. Not just a Texas Problem!
HISTORIC UPDATE Surveyor Registration Long process . . . hard work Problems lingered Many Registrants contributed Grandfathering: Honest recommendations Few regulations . . . One part in . . .. Practices varied across state Surveyors complained Public complained! Similar National concerns!
All across the USA, Survey Quality Complaints: Closures unattained Butcher-paper plats Unadjusted instruments Mended and kinked chains Untrained employees New equipment miss-used Registration qualifications varied
Storms on the Horizon! Voices of displeasure!
At the National level it was nearing the roar of a student uprising! SO! Time to address the issues!
The National Scene: American Congress on Surveying and Mapping Conscience of Nation’s surveyors ACSM founded 1941 Adopted Technical Standards for Property Surveys, 1946. Texas Section ACSM, early 1950’s Quality concerns permeated Title Insurance Co’s. Ethical challenges demanded solutions.
ACSM and American Title Assoc. formed joint committee to create . . . First ALTAStandards, 1962 Title Company enthusiasm onboard. A major factor in surveyor’s future!
ALTA standards slow to spread Nationally. Professional-quality surveys still rarity. Major effort still required. Time and dedication. Then in mid 1970’s, ACSM created (NSPS) the National Society of Professional Surveyors. Every state in the Country invited to send a representative . . . a “Governor”. They came and returned enthusiastically!
Some surveyors were true professionals, well educated, understood duties. Some trained “apprentices.” Some “apprentices” learned. Some learned more. Some learned less . . . and . . . taught others. And some of the learned . . . taught others.
Began path of diminishing returns. And subject to the Profession’s . . . FEAST AND FAMINE CYCLES! But “Governors” kept in touch! IT WAS A PROFESSIONAL, ETHICAL CONNECTION!
Local TSA Chapters formed, +/- 1960’s Several Chapters developed “standards” Good intention but little coordination. “Standards issue” spread among many states. Studies led to varied “Standards” development. Some States reluctant to share. Some shared willingly; even offering to help.
Then came the big Questions . . . Do Texas surveyors really need Standards??? Would they support surveying standards? If so, could: surveyor to client relations improve? public relations get better? inter-professional communications advance? quality of survey-products increase? the entire profession be better managed? the lesser competent get improved guidance? It will be a long, winding path, but worth it!
Could Standards actually offer better . . . A. Protection of the public, B. Professional harmony, C. Quality expectation, D. Communication, E. Problem Solving, F. Protection of the Professional? G. But can surveyors afford them?
ManyTSA Member Attitudes Mixed bag ! RealProfessionals don’t need Standards! “Paper Standards” not enforceable. Too many differences in Texas . . . Who is to say what is good practice? Public won’t pay for text-book surveys! Ain’t never gonna work! Will be tough assignment!!
Developing Standards in Texas??? Got about as much chance as a cow riding a surfboard! So TSA took a chance . . . and sent out a Questionnaire . . . Members replied, “Create some Standards.”
State of Texas Surveying Affairs: Quality surveying practices, too diverse! Standards were non existent or unenforced. What constitutes “good surveying practice”? Opinions varied as much as the surveys . . . ALTA specifications seldom used . . . And mostly abused!
Reports on Surveying in areas across the state: Some “grandfathered-in” were just “measurers;” Many “practitioners” knew no boundary law; Many had not even heard of Stafford v. King; Some only surveyed as, “We always done it this way!” Pretty easy; just measure line and put in a stob! Don’t get excited, ‘round here, we all do it like that. Not sure what is meant by that “dignity of calls.” Whut it says on his deed is whut he gets! Yet surviving among them were many solid practitioners!
SURVEY STANDARDS FOR TEXAS 1975, TSA President “Skeet” Mitchell convinced of need, APPOINTED COMMITTEE! Committee of seven members from geographically diverse areas of state. Chair given broad powers to get it done. Or retro-fit! Where best to start? Research, just as for a land survey. What exists? What fits . . . or can be fit?
And the seven members came . . . from the forests, brambles and swamps in East Texas; from big and bigger oil patches in Texas and pipe liners across the state; from big city hustle and bustle and the Capitol City. They gathered, began their chore. AND Each knew best how to make a survey!
1st committee meeting . . . Exercise in chaos! Lasted two 12+ hour-weekend days! Committee: Big communication problems. Entering the unknown areas. Language barrier: Speaking “Texas- survey-eze” difficult for committee. Really needed to tighten the string!
Tex-as co-or-din-ate-Sys-tem Many interruptions to define terms Interruptions and explanations took up valuable time. A “signer” or an interpreter was needed! Ya got some other name for that?
Developing Surveying Standards started a long, hard trip! . . . With many discussions . . . Debates . . . Mild to volatile . . . Arguments . . . and even Threats of violence! A major ethical challengeto continue!
Ethical Tongue Tying A learning experience . . . Persuasions over explosions; Expressiveswithout Expletives; Suggest: propose, think, reason and consider; Avoid the derogatory: stupid, dumb, ignorant; Never insult, degrade, slur, impugna relative. Smile a lot! Or grin and bear it!
The ethics we know And the ethics we practice, Are sometimes at an opposite end; For as hard as we try, ‘tis hard not to lie, Some rules are . . . Too easy to bend
Many surveying terms common; many not! Major turning point arrived! In hind-sight, so simple! After much debate, agreed to rely on ACSM “Dictionary”
Other Issues Agreed to accept statutory laws. (Some practices were not only unprofessional, unethical, but unlawful!) Trespassing Safety Property damage Unregistered County Surveyors Proclaiming land ownership Quota “surveying” Deed layouts
Definingthe Profession What do professional land surveyors do? Can projects be accurately identified? Do most chores have identifiable steps? HMMM? Such a novel idea!
Other States with Standards onlydelineatedland surveys. Standards Committee asked all states and received Standards from nine: Arkansas, California, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Maine, Missouri, New York, and Wisconsin. North Carolina and Wisconsin were excellent patterns; Almost adopted. Lotsa reading and studying!
What Texas Land Surveyors Do (From original questionnaire) Some Texas surveyors did 100% boundary work. Many others only 30% boundary and 70% other: route surveys, mixed construction, topographic, control . . . all associated with boundary work.
After countless combative “discussions” Standards Committee Finds a Motto: Identify what needs to be done; Not how to do it! Thereby the Surveyor applies Professional Methodology to satisfy the Specifications.
Qualities needed for Standards Execution And an ethical, professional conscience. Satisfying Standards will require . . . Professional know-how! Professional understanding! Professional ability!
But there was more . . . Committee found: most surveying assignments, jobs, etc. have numerous common applications. Such applications grouped in Specifications. Those Specs identified, defined common application’s elements such as Bearings, Monuments, Closure, Records Search, Maps and Measurements.
Procedure had required EXTREME ethical conduct, debate and compromise. Again and again. Committee learned lessons of tact and diplomacy never before encountered. Chair challenged as referee and judge. An explosion of issues and values.
Disputes were common. Voices were raised . . . Some spoke over others. Tempers flared. Even a walk-out was threatened! Nerve ends were bared!
Members were challenged with homework. Written papers to clarify, support opinions. Mid-1970’s No email or instant messaging, few FAX options. Snail mail or telephone All took time to create and get response. And at personal expense.
No matter how Committee looked at their chore . . . each member saw it differently! And each knew his viewpoint was best!
Things surveyors do . . . Often called: An “assignment”, or Some “work”, or A “contract”, or A “project”, or A “job”.
Common things in profession often named or called by different terms. Committee finally chose to develop Manual of Practice in two main parts: STANDARDS and SPECIFICATIONS Standardsdefine terms and conditions; Specificationsdefine certain assignments.
Standards Committee Takes a Stand And we’ll call Assignments . . . “Categories”! Is Professional Surveying sum of many parts? Should Standards cover total practice? Are many parts used in different jobs? Can parts be identified? Can parts be grouped into different jobs? YES!
And a Category is: A unit dividing major professional services of a Registered Professional Land Surveyor into defined segments of similar nature, procedure and practice. A Category is comprised of one or several services or products that are closely allied. A Route Survey is a Category. A Land Title Survey is a different Category. Each Category has specific requirements.* *Manual of Practice, 1st edition,1976 to 12th 2013
Perseverance Prevailed The blueprint was made . . . Now the mold had to be cast. Again each had a different idea!
Many Committee meetings; Many more debates; Each definition, term, argued! More writing, opinions offered; Weeks passed, then months.
After an exhausting meeting. Category 1A finally completed, Sent to membership for vote. More debate at Annual meeting; Approved for one year, 10/9/1976, and voluntary use. Happy Birthday! Category 1A
Wheels of progress turn slowly Vote by attending membership and mail ballot; small success for Committee . . . Large move for Texas surveying profession. Precursor in decades to come, for legal, mandatory professional standards.
Category 1A 1st Issue of the Manual of Practice 1976 Folded Legal size paper (18 pages)
From 1976 through the years following, Manual was updated; Categories added; all Membership approved. New Categories for boundary related tasks. Route surveys, topos, Construction, vertical- horizontal control, etc.