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Thread: Forced approval

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Forced approval

    How do you or would you handle it when you are asked to approve something that does not meet the local government's standards? For example, you do not approve a building permit because it is on unplatted property and needs to be platted first. Your superior says to approve it anyway.

    Do you: A. Approve it anyway; B. Approve it with a note saying "per direction from XXXX"; C. Talk to your superior's superior; D. Tell your superior to approve it him- or herself if they want it approved; E. Other (consult AICP, etc.)

    Is this a common scenario in Planning Departments?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    I had to handle similar cases in my first planning job. There were times I didn't feel comfortable putting my name on the approval which was requested by a supervisor. Hopefully you can explain to the supervisor you are uncomfortable in granting the approval since it does not conform with the rules and you have a history of upholding the rules and politely ask them to do the approval. You could even draft the letter of approval or permit under their signature block and simply ask them to sign it.

    However, you don't want to lose your job one way or another, it isn't a good time to be without a job so you may have to keep that in mind.

    The AICP route is tricky, if you or your supervisor is not a member of the AICP then you do not have to conform to the ethics and there are no ramifications for not doing so. However, if your supervisor is a member you can kindly remind them of the ethics and explain that you too wish to uphold the same standards.

    Whatever you choose all I can say is good luck, but permitting on unplatted land will only cause your office a headache down the road and possible big problems for the "land owner"
    @GigCityPlanner

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lyburnum View post
    How do you or would you handle it when you are asked to approve something that does not meet the local government's standards? For example, you do not approve a building permit because it is on unplatted property and needs to be platted first. Your superior says to approve it anyway.

    Do you: A. Approve it anyway; B. Approve it with a note saying "per direction from XXXX"; C. Talk to your superior's superior; D. Tell your superior to approve it him- or herself if they want it approved; E. Other (consult AICP, etc.)

    Is this a common scenario in Planning Departments?
    As Tide sez, you want to keep your job. It is not like this thing is going to pollute a waterway (hopefully), so there's that. Hopefully you have learned by now to get this and other such things in writing, so you can have a record defending yourself and you have CYA on this issue. If you can get your superior to sign off instead of you, even better. Tread carefully.

    Very carefully.
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    Did I say carefully?

  4. #4
    One way you could do it is to send an email to your supervisor "double-checking" that he wanted you to sign off on it, that way there is a paper trail leading to him if things ever go awry.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Or.....

    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    One way you could do it is to send an email to your supervisor "double-checking" that he wanted you to sign off on it, that way there is a paper trail leading to him if things ever go awry.
    Prepare the permit for your supervisor to sign. If they are so gung ho to get it through, this shouldn't be a problem. If they won't sign, ask them why you should.
    Skilled Adoxographer

  6. #6
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    I'm going to sound evil but in many cases it's not as clear as "meeting or not meeting" the codes, and in those instances if you're not afraid to have the conversation or a difference of opinion amongst staff then the answers are easy: the supervisor would feel obligated to be the one to make it happen.

    In my experience the cut and dry, straight out violation of the rules is not as common. It usually occurs only to cover up a previous misdeed or mistake, or it happens to avoid conflict. If you push back at all and one of these two reasons is raising the issue in the first place, the supervisor will deal with it on their own. It's not too risky if you're not insubordinate about it.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  7. #7
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    Prepare the permit for your supervisor to sign. If they are so gung ho to get it through, this shouldn't be a problem. If they won't sign, ask them why you should.
    This is how I would do it IF I knew this wouldn't knock me down a peg or two on the "is this employee a threat" board or "who gets laid off next" board.

    In a good job environment, you can call someone on their decision in this way without having it stick to you. If you are going to play such that you are not going to take one for the team and you don't want this to stick to you, you have to be careful about how you try and Teflon yourself. The supervisor knows there will be 150-300 resumes filling their inbox the day after they advertise for your job.

    This, of course, presumes the supervisor is this type of person. Since we don't have any information on the supervisor, this is the worst-case scenario. Since the profession is essentially in a worst-case scenario right now, that's how I'm playing this out in this thread.

    If the supervisor is cool and not paranoid and not one of the people described above, prepare as The One sez. But maybe not with the 'asking why you should' part and instead do the e-mail double-checking so there is a CYA trail so your next potential employer can see that the taint shouldn't stick to you.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Good Points

    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    This is how I would do it IF I knew this wouldn't knock me down a peg or two on the "is this employee a threat" board or "who gets laid off next" board.

    In a good job environment, you can call someone on their decision in this way without having it stick to you. If you are going to play such that you are not going to take one for the team and you don't want this to stick to you, you have to be careful about how you try and Teflon yourself. The supervisor knows there will be 150-300 resumes filling their inbox the day after they advertise for your job.

    This, of course, presumes the supervisor is this type of person. Since we don't have any information on the supervisor, this is the worst-case scenario. Since the profession is essentially in a worst-case scenario right now, that's how I'm playing this out in this thread.

    If the supervisor is cool and not paranoid and not one of the people described above, prepare as The One sez. But maybe not with the 'asking why you should' part and instead do the e-mail double-checking so there is a CYA trail so your next potential employer can see that the taint shouldn't stick to you.
    Agreed.....I currently have a very clear understanding with my boss and my building official and we all agree that it moves up the chain if one of us disagrees with signing something. So I would have to say at this point that I'm in a good job environment with respect to this question.
    Skilled Adoxographer

  9. #9
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    I think ursus is on the right track here. I have had many such instances where "we never have really enforced that provision". Now what should be done is change the code or make a written determination. In the for instance mentioned, one person following the book would go to the expense of a plat while one who knows the system does not. Chat with your super.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks all. I agree with much that has been said. This community has been very phobic of text amendments even when all agree that the text in question is stupid.

    By the way, these situations most often play themselves out when: 1. The applicant is too poor to do it right (e.g. have a plat prepared) so certain rules are ignored or 2. The applicant is an out of towner accustomed to more rigorous process and standards so nonexistant rules are enforced.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    There seems to be a lot of rationalizing going on here. Given the example that Lybumum first cited, approving a building permit for a house on an unplatted lot, would be a serious error that is likely to come back to haunt the individual sooner more than later. It's not going to take someone -- the assessor, tax collector, city engineer, building inspector, etc -- very long to discover that the permit should have never been issued as it is likely a violation of not only city code but likely state subdivision law as well.

    Its especially hard to do the right thing when times are tough like they are now but where does rationalizing violating a law become okay just because times are tough and you might lose your job. What is your integrity as an individual worth to you? How far are you willing to go to not lose your job? Is there a slippery slope involved where your boss keeps asking you to approve more questionable acts each time because he or she has already figured out that you have a questionable conscience and is now just trying to figure out how questionable your conscience really is.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by smccutchan1 View post
    There seems to be a lot of rationalizing going on here. Given the example that Lybumum first cited, approving a building permit for a house on an unplatted lot, would be a serious error that is likely to come back to haunt the individual sooner more than later. It's not going to take someone -- the assessor, tax collector, city engineer, building inspector, etc -- very long to discover that the permit should have never been issued as it is likely a violation of not only city code but likely state subdivision law as well.
    Possibly even sooner if they are going for a HUD or FHA loan or need FEMA Flood Insurance. A plat is always required for these.
    @GigCityPlanner

  13. #13
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    McCutchan has a pooint, a lot of what we're saying does sound like rationalizing, but what you're seeing played out in written form is how realistic and recognizable this situation is to alot of us in the public sector.

    But as to integrity, I think we're trying to give Lyburnum our take on "how to not let your supervisor make this your problem instead of his", and that doesn't really speak to our integrity, just our experience.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  14. #14
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ursus View post
    McCutchan has a pooint, a lot of what we're saying does sound like rationalizing, but what you're seeing played out in written form is how realistic and recognizable this situation is to alot of us in the public sector.

    But as to integrity, I think we're trying to give Lyburnum our take on "how to not let your supervisor make this your problem instead of his", and that doesn't really speak to our integrity, just our experience. [emphasis added]
    Bingo.

    [golf clap]

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