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Advisory Opinion No. 189

The question is whether an employee who is a landscape architect [employee] may volunteer his services, name, and stamp as a landscape architect to private interests for plans that require approval from the Department of Land Utilization [DLU].

In general, ethical questions will not arise if the employee designs and donates the landscape plans to private interests as long as he omits his name and stamp on plans presented to the DLU for approval. The DLU does not require a landscape architect's name and stamp on landscape plans submitted with architectural plans. If the employee wishes to have his name and stamp on the plans, ethical questions will arise, and the Commission will then respond to a written request from the employee or his appointing authority for an opinion.

The Commission understands the facts to be as follows:

The employee is a landscape architect who has offered his services as such free of charge to a church for the development of a landscape plan for a property where construction is planned on the North Shore.

The DLU reviews and approves architectural plans bearing the name and stamp of an architect. Normally, the DLU does not have the authority to approve landscape plans that are included with architectural plans. The DLU does review and approve landscape architectural plans for special areas such as the Shoreline Management Area, in which the church's property is located on the North Shore. A licensed landscape architect does not need to sign and stamp these plans, but architects usually have a landscape architect do so in order to improve the presentation made to the DLU.

Given these facts, the ethical question is whether, under Section 6-l.2(3), Revised Ordinances of Honolulu l978 (l983 Ed.) [ROH],1 licensed design professionals, such as landscape architects, "appear" before a City agency when they

a. volunteer personal services, name, and professional stamp to private interests, or

b. work for a non-profit, non-partisan, human-services organization.

The general rule is that the presence of a design professional's name and stamp on plans submitted for City approval constitutes a prohibited appearance under Section 6-l.2(3), ROH.

The Commission does not need to address this question because landscape plans that are required and therefore included with architectural plans for the church's property in the Special Shoreline Management Area do not need a landscape architect's name and stamp affixed in order to obtain DLU approval. Therefore, the employee may volunteer his services but omit his name and stamp on the plans. If the architect wishes to include the employee's name and stamp in order to make a better presentation to the DLU, the Commission will address this question herein at the employee's written request.

In conclusion, an employee who is a landscape architect has asked the Commission whether he may volunteer his services, signature, and professional stamp as a landscape architect on plans by a church to build on a North Shore property, which is in the Shoreline Management Area. Normally, the DLU approves architectural plans but not landscape plans. The DLU does review and approve landscape plans for work within the Shoreline Management Area, such as the work planned for the church's property. However, the DLU does not require the landscape architect's name or professional stamp on the plans. Therefore, in this case, the employee may design the plans without signing and stamping them and thereby avoid any questions of appearances before the DLU. If the employee wishes to sign and stamp the plans, he may request in writing that the Commission determine whether an appearance 1) without compensation; or 2) for an organization such as a church is a violation of the City's standards of conduct.

Dated: July 26, 1988


Chair, Ethics Commission

Last Reviewed: Monday, July 29, 2002