Writer-Activist Hit With Licensing Complaint for Calling Himself an Engineer
The head of an urban policy nonprofit has been hit with a complaint for describing himself as an engineer in materials written while his engineering license was expired. The case is the latest example of how licensing laws can be weaponized to chill speech.
The target of the complaint is Charles Marohn, the founder and CEO of the Minnesota-based organization Strong Towns. Before launching the group, which publishes research and commentary on housing and transportation policy, Marohn worked as a civil engineer, having first obtained a Minnesota engineering license back to 2000.
This week, Marohn received a letter from the Minnesota Board of Architecture, Engineering, Land Surveying, Landscape Architecture, Geoscience, and Interior Design (AELSLAGID) informing him of a complaint filed against him for allegedly misrepresenting his professional credentials.
That complaint, filed in February 2020 by South Dakota resident David Dixon, takes issue with a staff bio on the Strong Towns website that calls Marohn a professional engineer. Marohn’s license, Dixon notes, expired in June 2018.
“Mr. Marohn talks about being a policy expert, the type that reads law and ordinance. It is not reasonable to assume that Mr. Marohn was not aware that use of the term Professional Engineer, PE, or other similar representation while not licensed is a violation of law,” reads the complaint. “I urge the board to investigate as it sees fit, and to send a clear message that frauds of this sort are not tolerated.”
Potential penalties for violating Minnesota’s licensing regulations range from a formal reprimand to civil fines and even the suspension or revocation of one’s engineering license.
“It’s very obvious that the guy doesn’t like what I’m writing and is using a technicality of licensing to try to discredit me,” Marohn tells Reason. “If he really cared about the licensing and how I represented myself, it’s not like I
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