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Former Employee Claims City Without Qualified Inspectors


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Published on: Thursday, September 26, 2013

By Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE –The city does not have a qualified plumbing inspector on staff, according to two former city employees, and if buildings are not up to code it could cost businesses and residents millions of dollars, or their lives.

“I don’t think you have anybody there right now that fits the requirements (for being a plumbing inspector),” said Charles Baker, a former chief of inspection services for the city.

City spokesperson Marylou Berg said the there are inspectors on staff who have residential and commercial plumbing certifications issued by the International Code Council, but none are master plumbers certified by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

When asked why the city has not hired a master plumber, Berg said, “The city has been responsive in this matter and we have no further comments to offer.”

When problems do happen it could cost businesses and homeowners money to get things fixed said Eric Rose, a former code inspector for the city.

“Sure, getting problems fixed could cost millions, or it could cost people their lives if a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning occurs,” he said. “The state requirements are about having someone with knowledge in a position to benefit the greater good. It is owed to the residents, the owners of the buildings, and the owners of a store or to the people who are going to live in condominiums or an apartment building. These people are owed that.”

The Maryland State Code requires plumbing inspectors to hold either a master or journeyman plumbing license in order to ensure a high level of expertise, Baker said.

According to Title 9, Subtitle 20, of the Code of Maryland Regulations the minimum standards established by a local government in consultation with the state board of plumbers are:

(1) The plumbing inspector shall be a licensed master or journey plumber;

(2) The plumbing inspector shall:

(a) Have at least four years experience as an inspector or craftsman in a building and construction trade, and

(b) Pass a written examination prepared and administered by the state board, or prepared and administered by the county or local government, provided that the examination is approved by the State Board, and certified copies of all results are provided to the state board.

Baker said he and Rose, were the only two employees on staff who were qualified to perform plumbing inspections before they each retired. Baker filed a lawsuit in August claiming the city intentionally made working conditions intolerable to force him into retirement in 2011. Rose previously told the Sentinel he experienced harassment and racial discrimination which led to his retirement.

After Rose left, Baker said he advised Susan Swift, the director of community planning and development services for the city, that the city needed a master plumber. He also wrote a letter to the mayor and council in February 2011, after he had already retired, to notify them of the situation.

“I brought the law up to (Swift) and said this is what we need to have. She eliminated the (plumbing inspector) position and created other positions.”

Rose, who is a licensed master plumber,  said having a licensed person on staff is important because master plumbers have a level of expertise in the field that others do not have, which helps them to ensure buildings are meeting code requirements.

“There are issues the code does not deal with where we need to make a field decision about what people can and cannot do.  Those decisions are made while keeping in mind not just the safety of the homeowner but when they sell the house, the people who own it later,” Rose said. “For example, if you do not vent things properly toilets don’t run the way they are supposed to and things become blocked up. You can have a lot of issues. If the venting on a water heater is not done correctly, or fluids are not checked, then you have a chance of a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. All of these things are important and those things are life threatening.”

When Swift eliminated the plumbing inspector position, Baker said he began teaching employees about plumbing until he retired.

“I brought in samples and materials and we sat there for a couple of hours going over things like the common terminology and other requirements,” Baker said.

Swift said she could not comment because she is not a public information officer and said all inquiries should go to city spokesperson Marylou Berg.

Rose said master plumbers are not perfect, but they are more knowledgeable than those who are not master plumbers.

“If you have someone with no knowledge and does not know anything, what other problems are you going to run into?” Rose said. “One of the things that happens is now you have guys passing things and nobody will know there is a problem until a problem occurs.”

Reader Comments - 4 Total

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Posted By: ROCKVILLE VOTER On: 10/2/2013

Title: CLEAN SWEEP

Rockville not only needs a clean sweep of the so-called managers that have caused these problems, in the next election we also need a clean sweep of this current council.
Is it too late for a qualified candidate to run as a write-in candidate for mayor?

Posted By: Resident On: 9/30/2013

Title: M&C - Do Something

Sounds like our once All-American City is in violation of Maryland State Code. How low will the City sink before the M&C do something? It's time the M&C take action immediately! Get rid of the managers who are telling you what to do. This is your City. Govern it like you really care.
It's embarrassing to be a Rockville resident and you should be embarrassed to be the M&C of Rockville.

Posted By: Tim Buckley On: 9/26/2013

Title: One Flew over the Cookoo Nest.

"Let’s be blunt: The inmates are not only running the asylum but they’ve convinced the elected officials they should be running the asylum." Well said sir.
I agree something is really messed up with the operation of the city. I'm sick and tied reading about how staff have been treated by managers, and in general the city as a whole. The way I see it is the city needs a clean sweep of managers.
Let's get it done Rockville!

Posted By: Peter Chen On: 9/26/2013

Title: Amazing. Please publish my comment.

I find it amazing that the agency empowered to enforce plumbing standards does not employ inspectors who meet the criteria established in the law.
I went into the state regulations and found the regulation which was only partially quoted by the Sentinel:
A. Plumbing inspectors hired by the State, a county, or a local government after October 1, 1988, shall meet minimum standards that are established by the county or local government in consultation with the State Board, or, if there is no standard established by the county or local government, the minimum standards established by the State Board. The minimum standards established by the State Board are as follows:
(1) The plumbing inspector shall be a licensed master or journey plumber;
(2) The plumbing inspector shall:
(a) Have at least 4 years experience as an inspector or craftsman in a building and construction trade, and
(b) Pass a written examination prepared and administered by the State Board, or prepared and administered by the county or local government, provided that the examination is approved by the State Board, and certified copies of all results are provided to the State Board.
B. Each plumbing inspector shall:
(1) Attend, at least once each year, continuing education pursuant to Business Occupations and Professions Article, §12-503(a)(1), Annotated Code of Maryland, to be conducted by the State Board, or a course which is consistent in content with the State Board's course and which is conducted by a county or local government; and
(2) In accordance with Business Occupations and Professions Article, §12-503(a)(1), Annotated Code of Maryland, obtain a cumulative 8 hours of qualifying continuing education each calendar year.
This regulation says nothing about a certification as stated by Ms. Berg. If the city met this requirement they sure as heck would be out front in responding to the Sentinel by releasing a letter or other document from the state.
Plain and simple, it sounds like the city has never followed up on this regulation even after being advised of the requirement by the city employee.
What is totally amazing is that we continue to read the names of the same players still employed by the city.
Why does the Mayor and Council continue to bury their heads in the sand and allow this behavior to continue?




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