St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Engineers relinquish authority in contract

Under the agreement, the Florida Engineers Management Corp. gives up its policing powers.

By COLLINS CONNER

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- After a contentious telephone meeting Wednesday, the Florida Engineers Management Corp. board voted 4-3 to sign a contract that guts its authority.

In the aftermath of the vote, the board terminated Dennis Barton, the corporation's executive director, at his request, and accepted the resignations of two board members, who were distraught over the contract.

Under the new contract, the corporation will serve as an information clearinghouse for Florida engineers and perform clerical and administrative duties, but the real regulatory clout belongs to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The corporation will do "exactly what it did before today, except for one thing" said Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation spokeswoman Christina Johnson. "It can't make the final decision on policing powers, like investigating complaints, issuing licenses, finding probable cause" to discipline an engineer. "The final decision comes before DBPR."

Until three years ago, engineers were licensed and disciplined like other Florida professions under the auspices of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

After complaints about the department's inefficiency, the Legislature privatized the regulation of engineers by replacing the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation with the Engineers Management Corp. Barton and some board members said the corporation did a better job at regulating engineers than Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation did. Under the old system, complaints against engineers languished for years, but they were addressed within six months by the corporation, Barton said.

Johnson said the agency won't have those problems with agency Secretary Cynthia Henderson at the helm.

But Henderson hasn't proved herself to Barton, who said the new contract was a power play by Henderson.

Not so, said Johnson. Rather, the new set-up is the way things should have been all along.

"We, of course, support the privatization of administrative services, but not for policing powers," Johnson said.

Last week, when board members balked at the changes, they were told if they didn't sign the new agreement, Gov. Jeb Bush would effectively dissolve the corporation.

Board chairman Eugene Bechamps said he feared "that under this contract (the management corporation) . . . is doomed to fail."

* * *

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.