August 5, 2020
Board Meeting (8/5/2020)
Meeting Minutes and Notes
North Carolina Board for Licensing of Geologists
Minutes • August 5, 2020
Virtual Meeting held by Zoom
Call to Order/Conflict of Interest Statement/Welcome and Introductions
The meeting was called to order at 10:34 a.m. by Board Chair Steve Stadelman. Other Board members present included Rachel Kirkman, Dennis LaPoint, Robert Mensah-Biney, Richard Spruill and Kenneth Taylor. Peer Review Committee Chair Neil Gilbert, Executive Director Barbara Geiger and Board Counsel Sarah Zambon were also present. Dr. Stadelman read the Conflict of Interest Statement as required by the State Government Ethics Act. Dr. Taylor noted that, as the State Geologist and employee of the NC Department of Environmental Quality, he would refrain from participating in the deliberation or taking any action by the Board with respect to any matter involving an employee of the Department. A quorum was established.
Dr. Mensah-Biney recused himself from the matter involving Scott Brame. Dr. Spruill noted that he had previous knowledge regarding Brame and a matter that occurred in South Carolina. Ms. Zambon suggested that he disclose further information during that discussion.
Dr. Stadelman asked that the Brame matter be moved from New Business and be discussed following the Financial Report. He also asked that discussion of Gibson and Cohesion be moved up on the agenda as well so that Mr. Gilbert could be present for those topics. There was consensus among members of the Board.
Welcome and Introductions
Dr. Stadelman introduced and welcomed Board Investigator Neil Gilbert to the meeting.
Counsel Zambon informed the Board that during virtual meetings, each member should state their name when voting, to ensure accuracy of the record or that Dr. Stadelman call for a vote from each member.
Approval of Minutes
Motion to approve the minutes of the April 14, 2020 meeting was made by Rachel Kirkman and seconded by Dr. Spruill. The motion carried unanimously.
Dr. Taylor presented the fourth quarter balance sheet and profit and loss statement. Following an overview, motion was made by Dr. LaPoint and seconded by Dr. Mensah-Biney to accept the report as presented. The motion carried.
Matter of Unlicensed Practice by Scott Brame, Clemson University
Dr. Mensah-Biney signed off from the Zoom meeting as he recused himself from the matter. Ms. Kirkman asked for clarification regarding closed session vs open session. Ms. Zambon informed the Board that since the matter was relative to unlicensed practice, the Board was not required to go into closed session for discussion. Ms. Zambon informed Dr. Spruill that circumstances did not require him to recuse himself from discussion.
Mr. Gilbert gave the background of the case and the investigation. The property in questions is near Spruce Pine, NC and is owned by the GP Sullins Land Company. Scott Brame, Professor at Clemson University was engaged to perform an analysis of the site. He subsequently provided information in a video posted on the GP Sullins Land Company via YouTube. During the video, Professor Brame talked about quartz and insinuated that the property in question contained what he referred to as “underlying high purity quartz”. In the video, Professor Brame noted that adjoining properties were being mined for high purity quartz and that the same quartz extended onto the property in question.
Mr. Gilbert reminded the Board that the notification letter to Brame questioned his qualifications and informed him that it appeared that he was practicing geology in NC without being licensed to do so. In the video, Professor Brame claims that the site is of great value because of the underlying high purity quartz. In regard to the issue of unlicensed practice, Professor Brame claimed ignorance. Board members agreed that the video was an egregious act of geological consulting without a license in NC, directly in violation of NC GS § 89E, the geology licensing act. In addition, Board members agreed that the video could be damaging to the health, safety and welfare of the public because of inaccurate information.
Mr. Gilbert noted that subsequent to his investigation, it had come to his attention that Professor Brame had been previously cautioned by the State of SC for performance of a geological consulting job, without being licensed to practice geology license in that State.
The Board discussed the matter at length and consulted with Board Counsel regarding appropriate steps to take, in order that Professor Brame understand their concern of the gravity of the matter and the concern for the safety of the public.
Motion was made by Dennis LaPoint that Neil Gilbert further investigate by interviewing Scott Brame to inquire of other work that he may have done in NC and with whom he may have worked. And that after receipt of Mr. Gilbert’s report, an advisory letter be sent to Scott Brame with a copy to the SC Board. In addition, a letter should be sent to the land owner GP Sullins Land Company, advising them of NC GS 89E and requesting that they remove the video from their website. During discussion, Dr. Stadelman volunteered to draft these letters with assistance from Ms. Geiger and Ms. Zambon. The letters will then be sent to Drs. LaPoint and Spruill for review. The motion was seconded by Richard Spruill and carried unanimously.
Dr. Stadelman inquired of Mr. Gilbert, his opinion in the continuing matters of Cohesion and Gibson. Mr. Gilbert noted that Mr. Gibson is close to, or perhaps even fully retired and will most likely not renew his license. He noted that Cohesion is now using a NC licensed engineer to sign/seal geological reports.
Board members thanked Mr. Gilbert for his work on the Peer Review Committee and for his participation in the meeting. Mr. Gilbert left the meeting at approximately 12:45 pm.
Dr. Stadelman informed the Board that he had reviewed the matter involving Cohesion and that he had spoken to Mark Powers in the Waste Management Underground Storage Tanks Section Corrective Action Branch of DEQ. Dr. Stadelman suggested that the matter hinges on the rules of the UST Section. And that after reviewing the UST guidance document (aka STIRA) that it is his opinion that the matter regarding Cohesion be closed. Dr. Stadelman suggested that the Board provide a letter to DEQ regarding a possible rules change to ensure that in the future, analysis of samples and reports requiring geological interpretation be performed by appropriately licensed professionals.
Ms. Geiger reported that there had been no change in the number of licensees since the April meeting and that there are currently 1089 active individual licenses and 231 active corporate licenses. There are 223 licensees on inactive status.
Reappointment of Board Members
Ms. Geiger reported that Dennis LaPoint, Robert Mensah-Biney and Steve Stadelman had been reappointed by the Governor. Those members were officially welcomed into their second term of service. Mention was made that there was a typo in the letters received from the Governor, noting the wrong Board. Ms. Geiger will contact the Governor’s office to let them know of the error.
Ms. Zambon noted that although she had not been given the Certemy contract for review in a timely manner, that she had given it a quick review and had found multiple issues that need to be addressed. She reviewed those main legal points with the Board. Ms. Zambon asked for a copy of the contract in Word format so that she could more easily make desired edits. She will ask for assistance from her peers at the NC DOJ with expertise in contract review.
The website proposals from Brasco, ClickCulture and Imp Designs were reviewed by the Board. The three proposed amounts to build a new website for the Board were in line with each other, with the low bid at $5464, the middle bid at $6000 and the highest bid at $7500. Following review motion was made by Dennis LaPoint and seconded by Richard Spruill to request a contract from Imp Designs. The motion carried unanimously.
Legal Report and Board Training
Sarah Zambon provided an overview of Article 31 NC GS 143-291 – Tort Claims against State Departments and Agencies, as required by NC GS § 93B-5.
Continuing Education Report
The Continuing Education Committee met just prior to the Board meeting. There were 94 applications for review. The Committee approved 71 applications, 9 applications were approved with a change in the number of hours for a total of 80 approved applications. Six applications were deferred for more information and 3 applications were approved conditionally upon receipt of more information. Five applications were denied. Motion was made by Dennis LaPoint and seconded by Robert Mensah-Biney to approve the report. As the Board had received the CE report after the meeting of April 14 and was unable to approve it during the meeting, Board members were sent the report after the meeting and therefore reviewed it subsequently. Motion was made by Steve Stadelman to approve the April 14 report of the CE Committee. The motion was seconded by Dennis LaPoint and carried.
Ms. Geiger gave an overview of the events that had transpired regarding the October 2 administration of the ASBOG® exam. As directed by Dr. Stadelman, Ms. Geiger contacted the Governor’s office regarding the possibility of moving forward with the Fall administration of the exam. She was informed by the Governor’s staff that the Board could move forward with the exam, as it is a State agency and because the examination is required as a condition for license. The exam site and the processes to ensure safe administration were discussed. Dr. Spruill volunteered to assist on exam day. Dr. Taylor expressed his desire to assist, but noted that three of his staff members were scheduled to take the exam and that in order to avoid a possible conflict of interest, he would not be able to assist. Motion was made to move forward with the October 2 administration of the ASBOG® exam by Dennis LaPoint. The motion was seconded by Rachel Kirkman and carried unanimously.
The Board decided that if there are candidates who were scheduled to take the March 2020 exam, but who are not comfortable with taking the October 2020 exam due to Covid-19, that those candidates could defer their fees to the March 2021 administration.
The ASBOG® Annual Meeting is scheduled for November 4, 2020 and will be held virtually. The Council of Examiners Workshop (COE) will be held following the Annual Meeting. The number of Subject Matter Experts (SME) will be limited to 20 and will be chosen and invited by ASBOG®.
Ms. Geiger suggested that the Board designate a Voting Delegate and an alternate, along with two SMEs, in case more than one SME from North Carolina is invited to attend. Ms. Kirkman shared that the COE Workshop would be used as a test for future virtual exam administrations.
Ms. Kirkman informed Board members that she had been selected to serve as secretary of ASBOG® for the 2021 year. Board members congratulated Ms. Kirkman and wished her well.
Status of Fine Imposed on Licensee Gibson
Ms. Zambon reported that the draft of the reminder letter, requested by the Board at the April meeting, regarding the $2000 civil penalty levied on Mr. Gibson, had not yet been done. She advised the Board that at this time, the NC Department of Justice is not pursuing fines or penalties due to Covid-19. The Board asked Ms. Geiger to draft a letter over Dr. Stadelman’s signature reminding Mr. Gibson of the $2000 fine that was imposed upon him by the Final Agency Decision dated November 15, 2019.
The Cohesion matter was previously discussed while Mr. Gilbert was in attendance.
Outreach UNC Greensboro
Rachel Kirkman reported that she had been contacted by Susie Boyles in the Instructional Design Department at UNC Greensboro, regarding a ten minute video to be used as part of a new online course for the Fall semester: Introduction to Earth Science. In the video, Ms. Kirkman gave an explanation of what geologists do in the “real world”, NC licensing laws and the opportunities of becoming a professional geologist. Ms. Geiger requested a copy of the video to post on the Board website. Dr. Stadelman suggested that perhaps something of this nature could be used during this time of not being able to visit educational institutions to meet face to face with geology students. The Board will consider a virtual presentation, depending on how long the pandemic and the restrictions on group gatherings last. Dr. Stadelman noted that young people welcome and expect virtual access to information. Virtual presentations on YouTube or other social media, focusing on geology as a career, could be pushed out to high schools as well as NC universities, widening the outreach and benefiting a greater number geology students and prospective students.
November 12, 2020 Meeting
Following discussion, it was suggested that the on-site meeting at UNC Chapel Hill be postponed to the January 2021 meeting. Dr. LaPoint will contact the University. If the Board is unable to attend in person, a virtual presentation will be considered. The Board will determine whether the November Board meeting will be held in person or by Zoom, based on the situation with the virus when the meeting date is closer.
2021 Meeting Schedule
Ms. Geiger presented a tentative schedule for 2021. Following discussion, it was decided that the meeting schedule for 2021 would be as follows: January 27, 2021, April 20, 2021, August 11, 2021 and November 3, 2021, with the January meeting to be held at UNC-CH and the April and August meetings to be held at the Plumbing Board. The November 3, 2021 meeting location will be determined, and will be held at a geology department of a NC State educational institution.
Steve Stadelman volunteered to continue to serve as Board Chair, Rachel Kirkman volunteered to continue to serve as Board Vice Chair and Kenneth Taylor volunteered to continue to serve as Board Secretary-Treasurer. Motion was made by Dr. LaPoint and seconded by Dr. Mensah-Biney to accept those members who had volunteered for officer positions. The motion carried unanimously.
Per NCGS § 143-318.11(6), motion was made by Dr. Stadelman, seconded by Ms. Kirkman and carried to move into closed session to review applications.
Motion was made by Dr. Taylor and seconded by Dr. Spruill to resume the open session. The motion carried.
Motion was made by Dr. Taylor to accept those actions taken by the Board in closed session regarding applications for examination, comity, reinstatement and corporate license. The motion was seconded by Dr. LaPoint and carried unanimously.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:04 pm, on motion by Dr. Spruill and second by Dr. Taylor.
Kenneth Taylor, Secretary/Treasurer