Every Registered Architect in Jamaica should acquire a copy of the latest Code of Professional Conduct and Practice published by the Architects Registration Board [the Board] and shall comply with its requirements and recommended conduct.
In accordance with the Architects Registration Act [the Act], Section 18 (4), this document sets out the rules for regulating the complaint, presentation, hearing and determination of matters by the Disciplinary Committee and for reports to the Board.
The Complaint Process
The process commences when the Board receives a complaint against a registered architect. A member of the public, a client, professional colleague or fellow architect may file a complaint or the Board may discover potential misconduct through other means such as media reports, statutory bodies or other sources. The Board may also self-initiate a complaint on the basis of alleged non-compliance by a registered architect with respect to the Board’s annual licensing fee and/or Continuing Professional Development [CPD] requirements as well as “plan stamping” and “aiding and abetting”.
All complaints against a registered architect must be in writing, on the Board’s Complaint Form, and should include a time frame of events and copies of the appropriate sections of the relevant documents eg written client/architect agreement, the brief etc. or other supporting evidence, limited to twenty (20) sides of A4/Letter size paper. Typically, complaints are made on the basis that a registered architect has breached the Act through one or more of the following:
(a) having procured registration under the Act, as a result of any misleading, false or fraudulent misrepresentation; or
(b) being dishonest, negligent or incompetent; or
(c) acting or conducting himself or herself disgracefully or improperly and in an unprofessional manner,
(d) behaving contrary to any section of the Board’s Code of Professional Conduct and Practice.
Once a complaint has been received on the Board’s Complaint Form, it is checked by the Registrar to make sure that it is complete, after which the complainant will receive written confirmation indicating that the complaint has been received. The complaint is then tabled at the Board’s next meeting and referred to the Disciplinary Committee for investigation.
In the instance where a formal complaint has been received and the complainant subsequently requests to revoke or withdraw said complaint, the Disciplinary Committee may choose to proceed with the investigation and hearing.
Within a week of the receipt of the Board’s referral, the Disciplinary Committee Chairman shall appoint a member of the Disciplinary Committee as investigator to review the complaint, conduct a preliminary investigation and determine whether or not a prima facie case exists against the registered architect. If the investigator determines that no prima facie case exists, he/she shall so inform the Disciplinary Committee Chairman who will advise the Board and the complainant that the case is closed and that no further action will be taken.
If the investigator determines that, on the face of it, the facts alleged would constitute a dispute but not a breach of the Code of Professional Conduct and Practice, then the investigator will refer the matter back to the Chairman, who with the Disciplinary Committee, may explore options for resolving the issue with the complainant and the registered architect through mediation or arbitration. If options for mediation or arbitration are not taken up, then the Disciplinary Committee makes a recommendation to the Board to dismiss the complaint.
However, if the investigator determines that, on the face of it, the facts alleged would constitute a breach of the Act and/or the Board’s Code of Professional Conduct and Practice, then the investigator shall so advise the Disciplinary Committee Chairman who will notify the registered architect of the complaint made against him/her and afford the registered architect an opportunity to respond to the allegations and to be heard, either based on papers filed or through an informal oral hearing.
If the Registered Architect choses to respond in writing only, this shall be within twenty-one (21) days after receipt of notification of the complaint against him/her, and on receipt of the response, the Disciplinary Committee Chairman shall provide the complainant with a copy to afford the complainant the opportunity of rebutting the response within ten (10) days. Thereafter, the Disciplinary Committee shall meet to review and decide the case, and if needed, may request additional information or documentation to assist it in making a recommendation to the Board. It is not mandatory for the registered architect to respond to the complaint, however, should he/she choose not to respond, the Disciplinary Committee may continue and deliberate the matter without the registered architect’s response.
If the Disciplinary Committee believes that there should be an oral hearing then the Chairman shall invite the accused registered architect and, at its discretion, the complainant or any other person or persons he/she considers expedient to invite, to attend the hearing. This notification and invitation shall be sent by registered mail or recorded delivery to the address of the registered architect and the date of the hearing shall be not less than two (2) weeks from the date of posting/delivery. Unless the registered architect specifically requests a full-scale formal hearing in writing, the Disciplinary Committee shall give an informal hearing to the registered architect, and to anyone else who wishes to be heard on the matter and may call such witnesses as it thinks fit. Additional evidence may be presented at this stage, but the fact that it was not submitted earlier may be taken into account.
The Disciplinary Committee may consider a full-scale formal hearing with a reporter under special circumstances such as if the credibility of a witness is at issue or if the meaning and validity of a document has been questioned. The costs of a full-scale formal hearing and reporter shall be borne by the registered architect.
The registered architect will be expected to attend the hearing unless there are unavoidable reasons for not appearing, such as illness or accident. If the Disciplinary Committee decides a reason for non-appearance is unacceptable, the registered architect could face suspension or even cancellation of his/her registration.
The Disciplinary Committee Chairman will invite the registered architect and, at its discretion, the complainant to respond to questions from the Disciplinary Committee members. Failure to attend by any invited party may be taken into consideration when assessing the complaint. The registered architect is advised to be well-prepared for the questioning. The registered architect may bring an attorney-at-law or other advocate or friend with him/her to the hearing. However, the Disciplinary Committee will prefer to hear from the accused registered architect and complainant rather than their respective advocates. Therefore, neither the complainant nor the registered architect complained about may be represented by counsel or cross examine any witness unless the Disciplinary Committee considers there are special circumstances that make such action appropriate.
The Disciplinary Committee Chairman may, at his/her discretion, invite other witnesses to attend the hearing to answer questions. The accused registered architect will be given a final opportunity to address the panel at the end of the hearing.
Deliberation, Decision and Reporting
The Disciplinary Committee will consider whether, on the basis of all the evidence presented, including the accused registered architect’s verbal testimony, an allegation of a breach of the Act or the Board’s Code of Professional Conduct and Practice or other disciplinary matters is upheld.
The Disciplinary Committee shall report to the Board on the results and findings of its investigation and hearing/s, and recommend to the Board what action, if any, should be taken, as set out in the Architect’s Registration Act Section 19 (1) (i) to (iv).
In deciding the case, the Board shall have regard to the report of the Disciplinary Committee and any other material consideration and shall notify the complainant and the registered architect in writing. Any order of the Board based on the report of the Disciplinary Committee may be appealed to a Judge in Chambers as outlined in the Act Section 20 (1).
An inquiry commenced during the period of office of the Board shall continue until its completion by the Disciplinary Committee, and the Chairman shall continue in office as such at the inquiry notwithstanding that a new Board may have been appointed after the commencement of a disciplinary inquiry and, before the inquiry is concluded the Disciplinary Committee which has commenced the inquiry shall be reconstituted a Select Committee and complete its report to Board.