In his essay, Armentrout wrote that the
engineer should go even further and resign
from the county development agency.
“I based my decision on two things,”
Armentrout said in an interview. “It was a
degree of how much influence the engineer
had with his firm and the agency. Even if he
had recused himself, that influence would
have still prevailed.”
Other members disagreed. In a letter
printed in the November/December 2015
PE, Past President Brad Aldrich, P.E.,
F.NSPE, said the engineer’s disclosure and
recusal was reasonable and met the stan-
dards set by the Code of Ethics. He empha-
sized that in smaller and more rural states,
the pool of professional volunteers to serve
on professional boards is limited.
NSPE member John Hall, P.E., F.NSPE,
wrote a letter (May/June 2016 PE) to
share his agreement with Aldrich that a
narrow definition of conflicts of interest
will eliminate engineers from critical
public policy decisions.
Armentrout believes that both Aldrich
and Hall offered valid points.
NSPE member Daryl Armentrout, P.E.,
recently learned firsthand how questions
of engineering ethics don’t always have
crystal-clear answers—and how NSPE’s
annual ethics contest can be an excellent
learning tool for engineering students.
Armentrout, of Knoxville, Tennessee, was
the winner of NSPE’s 2015 Milton F. Lunch
Ethics Contest. But when his winning essay
was published in the July/August 2015 issue
of PE magazine, he found out that others
had different opinions about his conclusion.
The contest scenario, which contestants
are asked to solve, focused on a conflict of
interest. It involved an engineer who is
serving on a county development agency
that is working with the county in a joint-funded site development study for a business park. The county is considering a
proposal from the firm co-owned by the engineer; the firm has performed previous development work on the property being studied
by the county. The engineer recuses himself
from discussions and decisions related to
the site development study. The question:
Is the engineer’s recusal ethically sufficient?
As a retired Tennessee Valley Authority
engineer and an adjunct lecturer,
Armentrout gives an annual lecture on
ethics at ASCE student chapter meetings at
the University of Tennessee. He encourages
the students to study the NSPE and ASCE
codes of ethics, in addition to the NCEES
rules of professional conduct, to help them
prepare for the FE exam.
The debate over Armentrout’s winning
essay became a teachable moment.
During a “You Be the Judge”-style
ethics workshop in March, Armentrout
presented the case, his arguments, and
“I thought it was good for them to see
that my opinion was reviewed by the Board
of Ethical Review and they determined that
it was the best submittal,” says Armentrout.
“But this case shows that even among professional peers there’s not always an agreement
on what’s an appropriate course of action.”
Read Armentrout’s essay at www.nspe.
Winning Entry Becomes a Winning Lesson
the working paper: complex contractual
arrangements, the Gulf States’ restrictive
legal environment, the scale of abuse, lack
of direct oversight of working conditions,
difficulty in significantly changing business
practices, and lack of experience collaborating with competitors.
The Building Responsibly coalition,
however, plans to facilitate that collabora-
tion. “Working with industry is one of the
best opportunities we have to progress
worker welfare, especially as supply chains
and subcontractor relationships are vast,
complex, and interconnected,” says Tam
Nguyen, Bechtel’s global head of sustain-
ability. “Through greater collaboration,
member companies can better achieve our
common goal of safety, productivity, and
responsible engagement with our workers
Top engineering and construction firms
have formed a coalition to improve
worker safety and productivity standards
on their projects and throughout their
The coalition, Building Responsibly, was
founded in March by Amec Foster Wheeler,
Bechtel, CH2M, Fluor, Multiplex, and Vinci.
The group’s aim is to help construction and
engineering firms better address international human rights issues, promote a
healthier environment for workers, and
further improve project delivery and quality
The global nonprofit organization
Building for Social Responsibility will
facilitate the initiative with support from
the foundation Humanity United.
According to a 2016 BSR working
paper, the coalition grew out of a series
of roundtable discussions about workers’
rights. The participants included engi-
neering and construction companies, inter-
national civil society organizations, and
high-level government officials.
Faced with growing scrutiny from
clients, public institutions, and the media,
engineering and construction companies are responding to the expectations
of better recruiting practices. Migrant
construction workers, particularly in the
Gulf States, experience poor working
and living conditions, long working
hours, delays in payment of wages, and
debt created by the high fees charged to
workers to facilitate job placement and
migration, the report says.
While companies may want to improve
worker protections, they face a host of
challenges. Among the obstacles noted in
Coalition Begins Groundwork for ‘Building Responsibly’