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Thread: Referring consultants: should municipal planners do it?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Referring consultants: should municipal planners do it?

    Does anybody see any problem with municipal planners referring prospective applicants to consultants? Or is there an ethical boundary here that should not be crossed?

  2. #2
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Would never do it. Once you go down that path, you open your municipality to all kinds of potential conflict of interest and cronyism legal issues.

    When someone asks me to recommend an engineering firm or consultant, I give them a list of firms that regularly do business in town, with the following in BOLD PRINT on the bottom of the page:

    This is a partial list of firms that have regularly done work in the Town, and by no means is intended to represent all firms qualified to perform work to meet the requirements of the Town. The Town does not, and cannot, make any recommendations on which firm should be used.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    Yes I would have a problem with recommending/referring.

    I usually say look in the Yellow Pages under engineers or surveyors.
    Oddball
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    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
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  4. #4
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    to echo NHP - Would not and cannot give recommendations.

    For builders, we give them a list of the contractors licensed to work in the muni.

    For architects or engineers, I usually tell people to look in the local yellow pages and any firms located in or near the muni have probably done work here and should know what to do.

    If I started recommending specific firms, I would get killed by the politicos.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plan 9's avatar
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    While as a consultant I would like to say yes....My experience on the other side says you are best not to do it for all of the reasons already cited. Plus, if the application gets denied or they have a bad experience with the consultant for whatever reason, guess who gets the blame!
    "Future events such as these will affect you in the future."

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    I agree with everyone else on here. Never under any circumstances is it appropriate for a municipal or county employee to refer an applicant to a specific lawyer, engineer, landscape architect, zoning expediter, or other type of consultant. I get the question a lot from applicants and I tell them that they can either look through individual case files, listen to meeting over the internet, research on-line, or check out the yellow pages. Too much potential for conflict of interest claims.
    Satellite City Enabler

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Never recommend anyone. However, we are accostomed to giving out a list of locals that do work in the area. Whe prodded, we tell who does the best / cheapest work. But still not a "recommendation"

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    No. The legal problems that come with what amounts to endorsing particular consultants are large. I tell people that I can't answer that question. Some of the smarter ones ask me what questions I can answer. I can answer what consultants do we see regularly, I can answer who was the last consultant to successfully do XYZ. I even can answer (but won't) who I would choose if I were the applicant. Referrals to the yellow pages usually work. If an applicant seems to be particularly at sea about what to do, I sometimes pull a file and suggest that they might find that file enlightening about what to do to apply. That there is a consultant's report in there is merely a coincidence.

  9. #9
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Ooo...Otis...I like the last bit.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  10. #10
          Downtown's avatar
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    Early in my career, I'd made suggestions that ultimately came to bite me in the rear. The firms that I had recommended had planning components that had great planners. And then the engineers from the firm doing the project never ever consulted the planners, and we still got crappy plans.

    Lesson learned the hard way - never recommend.

    I do, however, tell people to remember that you get what you pay for - we have a couple seriously atrocious firms that do A LOT of work in our town, and I just wish we could refuse their applications.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    Absolute no-no at jobs I've had. You recommend somebody and you are basically putting money in their pocket, while working as a public employee.

    Best to just tell them how to find suitable consultants themselves, without naming names.

  12. #12
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    We tell them firms that we have dealt with, with a disclaimer similar to NHPlanner's. If they ask, we will tell them which firms resubmit fastest after receiving comments from staff and which firm we see most frequently.

    Our building department tracks number of average number of building code violations per permit, which is used by the local homebuilder's association each year to give out awards. Overall work quality has improved since initiating this program.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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