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Open Perjury

Maryland Board for Professional Engineers suspends license of Baltimore

Frank Klein
KEEPING HIM IN SUSPENSE: The Maryland Board for Professional Engineers suspended the license of engineer John D. Elder (with back to camera) for failing to disclose criminal convictions on license-renewal applications.

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 9/12/2007

A professional engineer with a long criminal history and a hand in multiple Baltimore City building collapses has had his engineering license suspended for 120 days, although he could get a one-day reprieve in early December.

On Aug. 22, John D. Elder signed a consent order with the Maryland Board for Professional Engineers stipulating a $2,000 fine and a 120-day license suspension beginning Aug. 24. Since first applying for his engineering license in 1986, Elder has repeatedly perjured himself by failing to disclose his criminal convictions on license-renewal applications, the board found.

Elder's criminal record came to public attention in an Aug. 2, 2006, City Paper cover story, "Collapse." The story examined why dozens of buildings fall down in Baltimore every year and detailed four collapses in which Elder's name appeared as engineer. Elder said there were others, but denied he was responsible for any of them. A second case before the Board for Professional Engineers is examining that issue.

A Rosedale resident, Elder has been a city employee at least twice, in the 1980s and mid-to-late 1990s, when he oversaw the city's demolition team. His criminal history dates to 1968; in 1975 he was convicted and sent to federal prison for his part in a stolen sailboat case. Elder was subsequently convicted in Maryland courts of misdemeanor harassment and malicious destruction of property on several occasions, and in 2001 was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison under Maryland's "hate crime" law for harassing an interracial couple. Elder's most recent conviction is a 2004 drug bust, records show.

The 120-day license suspension would prevent Elder from stamping plans until Dec. 23, 2007, but because his current license expires on Dec. 3, the order includes a provision under which Elder could receive a one-day reprieve on or around Dec. 4. "[I]f the Respondent applies to renew his license with the Board less than two calendar weeks before Dec. 3, 2007, and if the Board determines he is eligible for such license, then the Respondent's license shall be renewed for one day, and . . . the remainder of the 120-day suspension shall begin the first day after that one-day period of licensure," the consent order reads.

Elder's lawyer, Peter A. Prevas, says the one-day license provision is not a loophole. "There were no tricks built into that," he says. "It was just a mechanism to continue his suspension."

Milena Y. Trust, the assistant attorney general who negotiated the order on behalf of the board, says the same--but acknowledges the possibility that Elder could be an engineer for a day. "While technically he will be able to practice that single day," she says in a voice-mail to City Paper, the order "is structured is so that we can continue with his suspension because you can't suspend a license that is lapsed." She says the board has sent letters to all state building officials informing them of Elder's suspension, adding, "I sincerely doubt that a practice on a single day in December is going to be an issue."

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