Letter from the Chair,
I would like to address an important issue of the Board and its licensees; the submission of complaints for alleged violations. As Chairman of this Board, and a licensed irrigation contractor, I understand the frustration felt when an individual is seen performing irrigation services that is believed to be in violation of N.C. General Statute § 89G. This is the reason the Board welcomes all licensees and the public to report alleged violations. As licensees working in the field, you are the eyes and ears of the Board; however, there are laws that the Board must follow. When it comes to the law, a licensing board must follow proper procedures and not broaden its authority, or there could be grave repercussions.
An example of this is North Carolina Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission. In this case, the dental board attempted to prevent non-dentists from offering teeth-whitening services, arguing that teeth-whitening services could only be performed by board-licensed dentists. The dental board sent threatening letters to non-dentists who offered teeth-whitening services and even encouraged mall operators to evict kiosks used for teeth whitening. In response to the dental board's attempt to quell competition, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against the dental board claiming that the dental board's actions violated anti-trust laws, were anti-competitive, and thus, unlawful. After numerous years of litigation, the Supreme Court sided with the FTC.
Please note that complaints should never be reported directly to investigators, board members, suppliers, or any other person other than the NCICLB Administrative office. Complaints must be submitted electronically through the Board website or may be printed on a complaint form by going to
. The complaint forms ask very specific questions to help administration and the investigative committee ensure there is enough information to warrant an investigation. It also gives the investigator and legal counsel a standardized format to work with when reviewing the complaint.
Another big issue with these complaint forms is anonymity. The Board recently voted that it would no longer accept and/or investigate anonymously submitted complaints. The Board has found that having the complainant information provided is helpful to the investigators, as it allows them to contact the complainant and ask questions before making site visits as part of the investigation. Furthermore, there is a good chance that an anonymous complaint will not hold up in a court of law. Lastly, the Board fears that anonymous submission of complaints allows for the potential of complaints being submitted purely out of retribution instead of there being an actual violation. Some licensees have suggested that Board investigators drive around the State looking for violations. This notion is not only costly, but also unrealistic. Below are some other comments for suggested changes that Administration has received over the years and an explanation of why the suggested changes are or are not feasible.
Comment: The Board should go after the homeowner for hiring someone that is unlicensed.
Answer: There is no law in North Carolina that says a homeowner cannot hire an unlicensed contractor. Please understand that one of the reasons that the Board is in place is to protect the public health, safety and welfare, and not to punish them for not hiring licensed contractors.
Comment: The Board needs to make the laws tougher.
Answer: The Board is not allowed to lobby for changes to the law. This can only be accomplished through Associations such as the Green Industry Council or Carolinas Irrigation Association.
Comment: I drove by and saw an unlicensed contractor doing irrigation and the job is substandard.
Answer: If a person is unlicensed, the only violation the Board has authority to discipline them for is unlicensed practice. The Board cannot discipline an individual that is not licensed for minimum standard violations. On the other hand, if this were a licensee, it would be important to report to the Board the minimum standard violations that were observed. Though the Board does not expect the complainant to know all of the existing minimum standards violations, the Board requires more details other than just saying a job is substandard.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation, and following the proper procedures when filing a complaint to the NCICLB.