BY WILLIAM BRACKEN, PE, SI, CFM
By the close of the 2017 licensure renewal, the Florida Board of Professional Engineers had renewed 31,722 engineering licenses. Then, after the close of the licensure renewal period and as required by Rule 61G15-22.006, Florida Administrative Code, Demonstrating Compliance, board staff conducted an audit of the licenses renewed so as to verify compliance with the continuing education requirements.
Florida’s CE requirements are found in Section 471.017, Florida Statutes, Renewal of License, and call for a minimum of 18 hours of qualifying CE. Specifically, licensees are required to obtain one hour of professional ethics and one hour of Florida-specific laws and rules. In addition, Florida licensees are required to obtain four hours in their area of practice and 12 hours that relate to any topic pertinent to the practice of engineering.
Section 471.017, F.S., also establishes the requirement that the Board verify compliance with the CE requirements, and Rule 61G15-22.006(2), F.A.C., establishes the requirements for that verification by way of an audit. Specifically, this rule states that the Board will “randomly audit a minimum of 3 percent of licensees to assure that the continuing education requirements are met.” Therefore, 1,051 licenses were randomly selected and notified that they were being audited.
Given that the statutory CE requirements have been in place for the past two renewal cycles, or more than five years, it was very surprising when the audit found that 112 of the 1,051 licensees audited were out of compliance. Of greater concern to FBPE is, based on an extrapolation of these numbers, that potentially 10 percent, or 3,000, of Florida’s licensees may have renewed their licenses without being able to prove that they meet the minimum CE requirements.
Licensees are required to keep CE records for purposes of complying with a CE audit. These requirements can be found within Rules 61G15-22.006(3) and within 61G15-22.008, F.A.C. Both of these rules require licensees to retain proof necessary to document completion of the CE for four years from the date of completion of the continuing education activity.
According to 61G15-22.006, “A failure to produce documentation of compliance with continuing education requirements during an audit will result in the opening of a disciplinary complaint against the licensee for violation of paragraph 61G15-19.001(6)(s), F.A.C. If a violation is proven, the penalty shall be within the guidelines established by sub-subparagraph 61G15-19.004(2)(g)4.i., F.A.C.” In other words, failure to prove that that the CE requirements have been met after having renewed a license constitutes a violation of Rule 61G15-19.001(6)(s), F.A.C., and can result in a penalty ranging from a reprimand with a $1,000 fine up to a suspension until the licensee demonstrates compliance.
It is worth noting that Rule 61G15-22.006 also states that “licensees audited in the previous biennium who failed to demonstrate compliance will be included with the group of licensees audited for the current renewal cycle.” Should a licensee then fail to comply with the CE requirements in two successive renewal cycles, the licensee would face a penalty ranging from a one-year suspension and $1,000 fine up to revocation of the license.
William C. Bracken, PE, SI, CFM, is a licensed Professional Engineer and Special Inspector in Florida, and is executive vice president, national director of forensic engineering for J.S. Held. Mr. Bracken has served on the FBPE Board since 2012 and served as Board chair for the years 2015 and 2016. He also served as FBPE’s vice chair for the years 2013 and 2014.