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Curtis v. Missouri Board For Architects

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division

May 23, 2017

DONALD DUSTIN CURTIS, Appellant,
v.
MISSOURI BOARD FOR ARCHITECTS, PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS, PROFESSIONAL LAND SURVEYORS AND PROFESSIONAL LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri Honorable Jon Edward Beetem, Judge

          Before Thomas H. Newton, P.J., James Edward Welsh, and Karen King Mitchell, JJ.

          Thomas H. Newton, Presiding Judge.

         Mr. Donald Dustin Curtis appeals a Cole County circuit court judgment affirming the disciplinary order issued by the Missouri Board of Architects, Professional Engineers, Professional Land Surveyors, and Professional Landscape Architects placing his professional license on probation for three years for violations of a previous probation order. Mr. Curtis challenges the Board's disciplinary order on grounds of insufficient evidence, unlawful procedure, and agency action in excess of statutory authority. We affirm.

         Mr. Curtis, an Arizona-based architect, is licensed in Missouri and a number of other jurisdictions. His license was placed on probation for one year, beginning in June 2014, because he had failed to inform the Board when renewing his license that he had been subject to discipline in Nevada. As part of that probation, he was required to submit plans for his Missouri projects to the Board, as requested, for review. Two of those projects are subject to this dispute. One, the Florissant project, involved plans for the renovation of a freestanding Burger King restaurant; the other, the Bridgeton project, involved the construction of a Burger King restaurant inside an existing Walmart store. Mr. Curtis prepared the plans for the Florissant project, including plumbing and lighting changes, without using the services of a licensed mechanical or electrical engineer. The Bridgeton project did not comply with Missouri's title-block regulations because the plans, although sealed by a professional engineer, failed to include his contact information.[1]

         The Board filed a probation-violation complaint in December 2014 and issued its notice of probation violation and hearing to Mr. Curtis in February 2015. Following the hearing, the Board issued its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and disciplinary order. The Board concluded that Mr. Curtis had violated the terms of the June 2014 disciplinary order

by placing seals on projects that did not comply with Board regulations, by completing an architectural project that included professional engineering that was beyond his education, skill, and training as an architect, failed to do adequate calculations to determine the propriety of his design, and included title blocks that did not conform to Board regulations, but nevertheless placed his signature and seal on those projects despite these shortcomings.

         The Board placed his license on a three-year probation beginning June 2, 2015, with certain conditions, which are similar to those imposed in June 2014. The Board also included in the order a proviso that could extend the probationary period as follows:

If at any time during the probationary period Curtis ceases to provide architectural services in the State of Missouri for longer than three months at a time, ceases to be currently licensed under the provisions of Chapter 327, RSMo, or fails to keep the Board advised of his current place of business and residence, the time of his inactivity, or unlicensed status, or unknown whereabouts shall not be deemed or taken as any part of the time of discipline so imposed.

         The Cole County circuit court found no grounds for relief under section 536.140 and denied Mr. Curtis's petition for judicial review, lifted a stay of the Board's disciplinary order, and reinstated it as of October 4, 2016.[2] This timely appeal followed.

         Legal Analysis

         We review the Board's order and not the circuit court's judgment, and, under section 536.140, we determine whether its action:

(1) violates constitutional provisions; (2) exceeds its statutory authority or jurisdiction; (3) is unsupported by competent and substantial evidence upon the whole record; (4) is, for any other reason, unauthorized by law; (5) is made upon unlawful procedure or without a fair trial; (6) is arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable; (7) involves an abuse of discretion. § 436.140.2. "The Board's decision is presumed valid, and the burden is on the party attacking it to overcome that presumption." We make a "'single determination whether, considering the whole record, there is sufficient competent and substantial evidence to support'" the agency's decision. If the "agency's decision involves a question of law, the court reviews the question de novo."

Peer v. Mo. Bd. of Pharmacy, 453 S.W.3d 798, 802-03 (Mo. App. W.D. 2014) (citations omitted).[3]See also Albanna v. State Bd. of Registration for the Healing Arts,293 S.W.3d 423, 428 (Mo. banc 2009) (setting forth constitutional standard for review of administrative decisions-art. V, ยง 18-as "whether considering the whole record, there is sufficient competent and substantial evidence to support the [agency's decision]. This standard would not be met in the rare case when the ...


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