Ed Turner, PE is the former City Engineer of Idaho Falls, Idaho who was forced to resign for refusing to sign and seal projects over which he did not have "responsible charge". Ed had been with the City Engineering Department for over 27 years performing his duties competently and professionally when he was asked to step aside and accept a lower position. No rational justification was given for this move except that it was being done to improve the efficiency of the Department. Despite his demotion and reduced span of responsibilities, Ed was ordered to approve plats and other Engineering documents over which he had no "responsible charge". Ed refused to go along with this set up since it violated the Idaho Engineering Licensure Statute and put the public at risk. Ed acted professionally and ethically in trying to protect the public health and safety, and for his exemplary behavior he paid a heavy price, namely the loss of his career and the economic and psychological turmoil that such a loss created. Upon his resignation from this position, Ed sued the City of Idaho Falls for wrongful termination and breach of contract among other charges. He battled the City in court for over three years. Because of errors by his first lawyer, Ed lost his fight with the City of Idaho Falls. Due to financial difficulties Ed was forced to settle with the City. He then sued his former lawyer for malpractice.
Although Ed's lawsuit was for legal malpractice, the resolution of the case still hinged on the issue of "responsible charge". Ed's second lawyer had to prove that the issue of "responsible charge" was still valid and central to winning the case. In legal jargon, Ed's second case is what's called a 'case within a case'. The 'inside' case is Ed's original lawsuit against the City of Idaho Falls. The 'outside case' is the legal malpractice lawsuit. In essence Ed's lawyer had to win the original case in order to prevail in the new case.
Because of the importance of this case to the Engineering Profession, AEA marshaled all available resources to ensure that Ed prevailed in his legal battle. AEA consistently and vigorously supported Ed from the moment we heard about his situation. We didn’t take an exorbitant amount of time to study the issues and quickly saw what had happened and what was needed. We called out to the Engineering Community to come to the aid of Ed Turner, PE. We worked with some of our sister societies to coordinate our efforts in support of Ed Turner's litigation. After a long and arduous battle, Ed finally prevailed.
Engineers can help in other such cases by joining AEA so that we will have the resources to continue supporting Engineers like Ed, and to carry on the work of promoting and protecting the Engineering Profession.