Ethics is a topic that surveying professionals feel very strongly about, as evidenced by the many responses and comments we got to this poll. The numbers show that to a great degree, unethical practices will not be tolerated. Many of you also had some interesting ideas about what can be done about unethical practices in your respective organizations and states. To paraphrase a thread that seemed to run through many of the responses—ethics, or lack thereof, will continue to define land surveying as either a profession, or something less.

Of the 45 people who took this poll 32 (71 percent) responded that they had never turned anyone in for unethical practices. Whether this is because they hadn’t encountered anyone who was practicing unethically or because they had and chose not to turn them in was unclear. However, almost 90 percent of respondents said that they would turn someone in for unethical behavior, or they would at least think about it. (Fifteen (15) percent said they would turn someone in if they knew they were practicing unethically, and another 15 percent said they would if they could do it anonymously. Twenty-eight (28) percent said maybe, depending on the seriousness). Only 3 percent of those polled replied that they wouldn’t turn someone in whom they knew was practicing unethically.

Evidently, many of you rely on your state boards to regulate this area. Eighty-seven (87) percent of you said that if someone was conducting unethical practices you would report them to your state board. The other most popular response was his/her supervisor.

Logically, it also seems that whether an individual practices ethical behavior or not colors your willingness to give references. Sixty (60) percent of respondents said they would not give a reference to a former unethical employee, while 24 percent said they would give the former employee a reference if they deserved it.

There were several comments on what can be done in your organizations. Some of those include:

“Keep a close eye on people's time and work product. Never rest and think your job is done. One unethical individual can undo all the good we do as surveyors, and ruin any good work we have done in the past. One person's image can reflect on each and every surveyor. I believe that ethical behavior is the only way we can survive as a respected profession.”—Monte P. Monteith, land surveyor, Wash. and Ore.

“I believe that the prevention of unethical behavior starts much earlier in life than in someone's professional career. Ethical behavior is something that goes well beyond the work environment into a person’s personal life. I believe that the question of someone being ethical is based on their overall moral standards, which is instilled through their upbringing, belief in God and the Bible, which is the ultimate guide book on how to be ethical. I am not so sure that we as a profession can effectively "prevent" unethical practices. I do, however, believe that such unethical practices should be policed and punished just as diligently as what technical standards violations are being enforced. I am also a strong proponent of continuing education, and courses in this area could help.”—Ted Darnall, land surveyor, Ind.

“Lay down the law (require that the law be known) and make it clear that no breach of ethics will be tolerated.”—Land surveyor, Ohio

“Make sure the bids are high enough so you are not "forced" into doing shoddy work. Competing for work on the basis of price is a recipe for disaster.”—Larry Otter, Engineer, Calif.

“At our Chapter meeting, we get updates from the President on State Board issues. We discuss the issue of ethics and who is doing what. We also invite all surveyors to attend; especially those we feel may be making violations. It is handled as a peer review by the Chapter and then if not corrected, brought to the Board’s attention by the president of the Chapter.”—Dean Frederick, land surveyor and engineer, Ohio

“Make an example (publicly) of those who violate the ethical rules, so that others know to be mindful of these unethical practices.”—Jay M. Schwandt, PS, Mich.

“Have firm established guidelines in written form that are enforced and adhered to by everyone. No exceptions. Consequences of stepping outside the "boundaries" should be clear and concise.”—Dave Reed, Okla.

Some of the best comments about what can be done at the state-level were:

“Professionals need to be more active in protecting their profession by not being so afraid, apprehensive and hesitant to first contact the surveyor who has acted unethically and/or illegally in performing their duties, and then if the problem isn't addressed, or the actions continue, make a formal complaint with the Board. The Board in turn then needs to act more decisively and severely for repeat offenders.”—Land surveyor

“I'm sure that the code of ethics has many interpretations, the first of which could be construed as "practice good ethics unless it costs money." Belonging to a state organization is a terrific boost to one's self esteem, especially when you build a good reputation and people recognize you for that fact. A self policing profession such as ours needs to be very watchful for the breaking of the code of ethics and remind people that their reputation, once spoiled, can never really recover.”—Monte P. Monteith, land surveyor, Wash. and Ore.

“The state [Ohio] is proceeding with an ethics exam for surveyors. I believe the state could be more proactive in connecting local surveyors and county agencies to ascertain violations. I believe a lot of violations are handled locally, being within the county or the local surveyors. If the Board members and the process for filing complaints was more widely known, surveyors and others would bring issues to the Board.”—Dean Frederick, land surveyor and engineer, Ohio

“Reconvene the ethics committee. The state [New Jersey] organization was told many years ago that it had to disband the committee for legal reasons. I'm not sure that is the case anymore.”—Nicholas Wunner, land surveyor and engineer, N.J.

“Encourage, if not demand, state wide membership in the State Surveyor's Association. Enact legislation to give the association powers to determine and discipline violations (similar structure of a Bar Association).”—Gary L. Collins, LLS, N.H.

Other comments about ethics:

“There is not enough reason for us to report unethical practices if the state board is going to look the other way. The way I see it, it penalizes the surveyors who are doing everything legally and above board. It costs money to run a proper company and do surveys the way they should be done. There are too many surveyors out there who hire inexperienced people to do all their field work and research and just sit in the office and sign plats.” –James B. Walsh, Jr., land surveyor, Va.

“Lack of ethics, not knowledge and skills, will continue to define the practice of surveying as something less than professional.” –Max Billingsley, land surveyor, Tenn.

“It is easier and far simpler to just be honest. Learn to choose your clients and employees and friends based on character. The trick is you must first have character yourself.” –Land surveyor

“It is difficult to "teach" ethical practice. I once worked for a surveyor, who's opinion I valued greatly, that firmly believed, and I too believe, that ethics can't be "taught". His and my belief is that either "you are ethical or you're not!" I believe that is a direct reflection of your background and upbringing.” –Ky. land surveyor and engineer

“We as surveyors need to police our own. We need to recognize that violators are affecting our profession, our respect within the community, our standing with other professionals and the value for our service. We also can learn from the experiences and improve our own ethics.”—Dean Frederick, land surveyor and engineer, Ohio

“Attorneys adhere to the Model Rules of Professional Responsibility, for which there are strict sanctions if you disobey. I believe the Professional Surveyor should be held to the same type of standards, with very definite sanctions if they choose to practice unethically.”—Jay M. Schwandt, PS, Mich.

“A state Surveyor's association must have the attention of all Land Surveyors if unethical behavior is to be easily detected and disciplined with an even hand.”—Gary L. Collins, LLS, N.H.