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Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

(OP)
I was contacted by another engineer that is defending their client that got written a citation by a city inspector for failure to obtain a permit for a small retaining wall. The city inspector used an excerpt from a blog article on my website as justification for the citation. After reviewing the case and the quoted info from the inspector, a few issues include:
1. The excerpt from the blog article is clearly taken out of context.
2. Directly before the quoted section, the article states that these are general guidelines taken from the IBC and you must check with your local municipality to see what their specific requirements are.
3. The article discusses when to contact an engineer, not when to apply for a permit.
4. This clearly violates my websites disclaimers, terms and conditions which state my website info is not professional advice and intellectual property than cannot be used for any commercial or non-personal use.
5. The wall in question is clearly under the height requirement for the city adopted laws and regulations for permitting.
6. What the heck is a city inspector doing quoting my website (or any website for that matter) instead of the city adopted laws and regulations???

Has anyone run into a situation like this before?

I am just a little dumbfounded. I am planning to write a cease and desist letter, and maybe have my website disclaimers, terms and conditions re-reviewed from this context.
Replies continue below

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RE: Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

Its not unusual for a regulator's report to quote/cite public websites, videos, or other media as supporting evidence that something is common knowledge, a common issue, or explain a technical detail/process. Everybody from courts to professionals, academics, and students have done so for decades for similar reasons, and fair use doctrine protects the right to do so. Personally, I'd consider it an honor.

Regardless, every enforcement action requires citing a specific legal requirement and I highly doubt any agency would take action without doing so.

RE: Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

Isn't this what all the Artificial Intelligence systems are doing?

They are simply harvesting ALL that wonderful knowledge out there in the internet universe and providing wonderful, useful, and warm-fuzzy fun information to you!

RE: Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

Regardless of what information LLMs have access to, they're still only making precise predictions of responses to prompts, but without actual understanding anything.

While the Chinese Room paradigm would suggest that LLM's "understand" something; when AIs are creating images, it's painfully obvious that they don't understand all that much, which suggests that LLMs don't understand much either. What's missing from AIs is the internalized model of the world that humans have, such as how many fingers and hands and feet creatures of the world have, true spatial perspective, etc. Six-fingered humans are pretty common in AI-generated images, along with tri-pedalism.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
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RE: Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

It sounds like a dictator inspector who makes up rules. Too many people let them get away with it instead of calling it out because they don't want to upset the inspectors.

It could also be they are clueless about the walls and started googling to try and find out if the wall needed a permit or not.

Either way, they need to site the relevant code, not part of a web site.

RE: Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

(OP)
I think what rubbed me the wrong way is the inspector quoted my name with PE after versus just referring to the website. I make no mention in the article that I even authored it.
I do state I own the company and the website on the About Us page, but I also have guest articles or one of my team members write articles as well.

RE: Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

Quote (LOTE)

the inspector quoted my name with PE after versus just referring to the website. I make no mention in the article that I even authored it.

Depending on the state, that comes real close to violating engineering practice regulations. Maybe even fraudulent misrepresentation. Since you did author it, it probably wouldn't go anywhere, though. But if they are using your name without permission, I'd report it to the Building Official at the very least.

RE: Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

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RE: Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

What is the full story? There seems to me more information needed to draw a conclusion. How tall is the wall? What is the actual issue or violation? Does the person have a history of not obtaining permits? Did the wall impact neighboring property?

RE: Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

(OP)
jhnblgr regardless of the situation, I have not been hired by either party, yet the city inspector quoted my website (and referenced John Doe, PE in his exhibit), making it seem like I provided engineering guidance to the city, and that is how I am getting roped in.

From my limited understanding, they have a <48" tall wall (<36" exposed) that has been in service for 15 years and is now in need of some minor repair along a segment. The owner (commercial) wants to make the repair and has coordinated with the neighbor, but the city is stating they need a permit and has put a stop work order on the repair.

The spec adopted by the city states walls over 48" or supporting a surcharge require a permit. The inspector is stating that the 12% slope behind the wall constitutes a surcharge.

RE: Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

LOTE, interesting situation. I would probably be a little alarmed if I was in your situation, but I suppose this type of "risk" comes with publishing information on the internet. Question, if you were the author of an engineering text book, and the city code employee cited a quotation form your text book, would that be any different (more or less acceptable)? I am just thinking out loud.

RE: Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

It would seem to me that a city inspector can only reference the city code. Of course, that depends on the municipality. The first time I hear an inspector state, "I read on a blog post that you are supposed to..." the building officials would be getting a mildly unpleasant phone call.

It's no wonder Hollywood is having a hard time coming up with new storylines, reality just keeps getting crazier and crazier.

RE: Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

LOTE - I would resist getting "roped in". None of this is your issue. If the inspector is misapplying the code or permit requirements, then it is up to the owner to fight the inspector (though that seems like a loosing proposition). If the owner or owner's engineer wants to bring you in as an "expert witness" in a court case, then ask for a very large hourly rate and be paid by up front retainer (just like a lawyer).

RE: Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

It's not that crazy. If a contractor were to spy on the seminars and lunch and learns the inspectors around here go to, they'd never fail an inspection. Seminar happens, and the inspectors laser focus on that for a month. Forget the missing gang studs under the end of the beam, the fasteners in this beam are .375" too far apart...

RE: Blog article used to write someone a citation for failure to obtain permit

So.

1. You wrote a public blog article about retaining walls.
2. A city inspector read your blog.
3. The city inspector used the knowledge they gained from your blog (correctly or incorrectly) to issue a citation to a property owner that is not your client.
4. The property owner hired not you to deal with the citation.

This clearly falls into the "Not my problem" category, and any calls about it should be answered with exactly that phrase.

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