“Thinking of hiring a hydrologist named Nick? You might consider if there is a better pick.” And that’s as far as we’ve gotten with our rather lame hydrologist limerick. But that’s OK—the Oregon State Board of Geologist Examiners hasn’t finished dealing with Laurel’s complaint against Nick Coffey, registered geologist (for now, at least). We were pleased, though, to check out the March 11 minutes of a board meeting and find in Item VII that a notice of intent to discipline Coffey has been approved.
Those who have followed the saga of our land use appeal against the Nielsen lot partitioning here in Spring Lake Estates (see “neighborhood” category) may recall that the limited availability of well water in our officially designated Sensitive Groundwater Overlay zone was the key argument against allowing two houses to be built on a lot intended for one. We and other environmentally-minded neighbors have spent thousands of dollars hiring our own hydrogeologist, Malia Kupillas, to counter Nick Coffey’s spurious claims (he was hired by the Nielsens).
Coffey has a history of making weakly-substantiated reports that have caused some other areas to suffer from the same sort of over-development that almost happened in our neighborhood, and until now he has pretty much gotten away with those reports—notwithstanding a previous letter of reprimand from the licensing board for affronts against the ethical practice of geology.
However, Laurel decided to file another complaint against Coffey with the Geologist Examiners Board and thoroughly documented her charges. The Board evidently agrees with Laurel, as currently Coffey faces several additional letters of reprimand, a one-month suspension of his license, two years of probation, and $5,000 in fines.
Understand: we’re not happy about causing trouble for Nick Coffey. But we’re also not happy with all the trouble Nick Coffey has caused property owners whose wells threaten to go dry because of excessive development allowed by his faulty hydrogeology reports. And it isn’t as if he wasn’t warned. You would think that a licensed professional would mend his ways after getting a letter of reprimand from his licensing board, but this didn’t happen. So now a more forceful stick has fallen on Coffey’s shoulders, which hopefully will fully get his attention.
He probably will continue to practice after this disciplinary action is taken (as we expect it will be), and people still will be able to hire him. We just want to let prospective clients know that if you’re considering a hydrologist named Nick, make sure that he really is the best pick.
Are we being too public with our criticisms? I don’t think so. As a writer, I’m used to people publicly praising or criticizing my writings. If I don’t want public praise or criticism, I should keep my thoughts to myself and not put them out on the Internet or in a book that you can buy on Amazon.com. Similarly, people’s private lives should remain private, immune from unwanted peeking eyes. But when someone puts out a shingle, “Licensed Hydrogeologist for Hire,” his or her competence becomes a matter for public scrutiny and assessment.
A recent “60 Minutes” segment was about a nurse who is accused of killing dozens of hospital patients. This man was repeatedly fired by the hospitals where he worked, and then quickly re-hired. When a hospital administrator was asked why he would hire a nurse with such a dismal work record, he said, “We didn’t know why he was fired. None of his previous employers provided that information. They were afraid of a lawsuit, I guess.”
When I’m thinking of buying a digital camera or a computer, the first thing I do is look for reviews and comments about the product on the Internet. Unfortunately, this is much more difficult to do with professional services. It shouldn’t be. I look forward to the day when doctor, lawyer, and hydrogeologist reviews are as easy to find as book reviews. This posting is a small step in that direction.