By Edward Snook
Idaho County, ID –The US~Observer has published numerous articles on Dorothy Walker’s fight to protect her property boundaries located just outside of Grangeville, ID and the resulting nightmare that fight has entailed. Walker has reportedly spent in excess of $450,000 to date seeking justice in a system that has become way too expensive for a vast majority of Americans; a system that sometimes involves pure cronyism.
What is at issue is surveyors have unlawfully repositioned existing monuments on private land, which impairs “bona fide” rights of long established boundaries. Because of unenforced federal and state laws, landowners can experience big losses from these moves.
It should be remembered that there still exists an Idaho dynasty of surveyors who believe they are above the law, commencing with Carl Edwards and continuing with his son Hunter Edwards, who calls himself the “Guru” of surveying and the “Wizard” of Idaho. Walker found evidence that these surveyors have manipulated her boundaries to such an extent that over 50 acres of her land is now in dispute.
Walker has received reports that the Board has consistently, in case-after-case, followed a repeated pattern of supporting the surveyor who violates the law by moving boundaries when that is prohibited and thus, increased the size of his client’s property. These boundary moves not only cause distortion of property boundaries, loss of land, but also, create more survey work for the future; full employment for surveyors – but, a disaster for landowners.
Now let’s examine the culprit(s) behind the devastating surveying problems that Ms. Walker is up against.
In Idaho, certain members of the Idaho Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (Board) have relationships with other surveyors outside the Board, treating them as “privileged,” showing favoritism to them, and allowing them to avoid discipline for illegal conduct. The granting of “privileges” to certain surveyors who scheme to illegally move boundaries promotes deception toward landowners and spills over to honorable surveyors, hired to resolve confusion and eliminate the chaos created by the “privileged” few. Often, these legitimate surveyors, who are not part of the “club,” are punished for pointing out unlawful surveying by the “privileged” few. Our information indicates this is a well hidden agenda being conducted by a limited number of Board members, not the entire Board.
While the Board purports that they only deal with the “ethics” of surveyors and the procedures they are required to follow, they show by recently written rulings that they actually adjudicate, define and promote the location of property boundaries – findings that should be strictly reserved for courts of law.
Such cronyism by insiders is wrongful control of government functions and leads to ‘selective enforcement of the law,’ which is contrary to traditional notions of constitutional due process and equal protection. Freedom of property ownership is being violated by the very survey Board created to protect it. Regarding the Walker case, the Board has recently started an unfair attack on surveyors Matt Mayberry and Pete Ketcham who were hired by Dorothy Walker to conduct independent surveys and discover the truth about her misaligned property boundaries.
There are some hard and fast rules to surveying, such as: 1) Boundaries set for private lands, once fixed by original government corner monuments (after the 1862 Homestead Act) are ‘locked in’ and cannot be “impaired” or moved by any surveyor, whether government or private; and 2) homesteaders who relied in good faith upon these original monuments, acquire “bona fide” rights in their land boundaries, which are immutable and cannot be destroyed or relocated by subsequent surveyors. The problem is that the Idaho Survey Board refuses to recognize these historic “bona fide” rights and prefers to enable the unlawful acts of modern surveyors, who choose to move boundary locations, simply by not enforcing the law against them.
Very early in our Constitutional history came the promise that each citizen would have the right to life, liberty and PROPERTY without government interference. As our nation grew, it acquired nearly 1.5 billion acres of land west of the Mississippi which became known as the “Public Domain.” In order to generate revenue and populate this vast land from ‘sea to shining sea’ the government devised a plan to achieve this stated goal and to facilitate private property ownership, by causing the land to be surveyed in orderly patterns of one-mile squares (or “sections”) that would secure both the location and the title to private property thus conveyed. The system for surveying the land and transferring title became known as the Public Land Survey System (PLSS). This plan became federal law and fixes and protects the boundary rights of “entrymen” who legally took possession of lands transferred by the U.S. Government (see 43USC § 752).
To implement the plan, the government’s General Land Office or “GLO,” hired contract surveyors, commonly referred to as “GLO Surveyors.” The plan was carried out by first surveying the land into 36 square-mile “townships.” These townships were then surveyed into 36 square-mile sections. Once a township had thus been completed, or substantially completed, the land as marked on the ground by the surveys was put up for sale. Upon the issuance of a “patent” (or deed) for a section or portions of a section, passing title to the land from the government to a private citizen, the government was prohibited by federal law from conducting any more surveys that would affect the “bona fide” property rights of the private “entryman.” That is, when the government owns the land, it retains the ability to change the boundaries, cornerstones and survey monuments at will, because it is dealing with its own land. However, once the government transferred the surveyed ground to members of the public, the boundaries became frozen and no one, not even a GLO (or later federal employee) surveyor, and certainly not a private surveyor, would have the authority to move those monuments or change the boundaries fixed by such “bona fide” rights.
These laws make perfect sense and if it were it not so, there would be nothing permanent or dependable for landowners to rely on. If a surveyor could sneak onto the property of a private owner and move survey monuments, chaos would be the likely outcome, with resulting arguments and strife between neighbors, causing boundary line disputes and eventually fostering lawsuits. This is just what happened in the Walker case because an Engineer-surveyor named Carl Edwards allegedly took it upon himself, without any accountability to the Board, to relocate several of Ms. Walker’s section corner markers, shrinking the size of the Walker land, reportedly, by over 50 acres.
Part of the problem is that the Cadastral Office of the BLM has developed a training program for private practice surveyors known as the “Certified Federal Surveyor” (CFedS) program, through which it trains these surveyors in the ‘black arts’ of the BLM, ostensibly to qualify them for surveying federal interest lands (not private property interest lands). They learn that, as it is with federal lands (before private conveyances), that it is “Okay” for them to move original GLO section corners and boundaries on private property because they are to consider themselves quasi-federal surveyors. Undeniably, the federal government has the power to move monuments on lands it owns (federal interest lands), but not on privately held lands. Yet, certain CFedS believe that they are deputized to move corner monuments on private lands as well as federal lands; which the law prohibits.
Multiple incidents in north Idaho demonstrate that the federal government has moved monuments of private property along the margins of federally owned lands which impairs the private parties’ ownership. Further, CFedS are empowered as private surveyors, with a false sense of elitism (e.g., “Guru” and “Wizard”) to move at will, permanently established corners on now privately held lands. While it is true that only a few surveyors take part in this practice and the majority are honorable and do not, still the amount of damage that the few, who are willing to move established monuments can bring to a whole region of peacefully coexisting landowners causes fierce legal battles. Again, I stress that the majority of surveyors still understand and maintain the distinct difference between right and wrong.
Here’s the way it works for the “elite” Mr. Hunter Edwards, a private and CFedS qualified surveyor, according to more than one expert: As the self-anointed self-appointed surveying “Wizard” of Idaho, while conducting a secret survey, he slipped onto the Walker property in early January 2014, without first asking for her permission. Feeling that he was empowered as if he was a quasi-governmental official and on his own mission to change the boundaries of the Walker and surrounding properties, he moved the northwest corner of her land 143 feet to the east, impacting almost nine acres of her property. No one asked him to do that and he admitted he did not inform any of the landowners of his intention before executing the survey. If successful, Hunter Edwards would have created new business for him and his fellow surveyor associates; or at the very least he could have satisfied the desired outcome of his client to increase his/her land holdings by moving the monument. Note: Hunter Edward’s affidavit, under oath, filed with the court, states that his purpose in entering Ms. Walker’s land was to change the NW corner of her property without her knowing about it.
Caught in the act in January 2014, he was escorted off the property by a deputy sheriff for trespass but not charged with a crime. Yet, he managed to set a few new survey markers that if followed would cause the additional loss of land for the Walker family. When a complaint about this privileged “favored son” was filed with the Idaho Board of Surveying in September 2014, instead of discipline, he was directed to “complete” his aberrant survey. Unless they had become part of the scam, why would the Board insist that Hunter Edwards “complete” his unwanted survey, when, according to witnesses, he was “attempting to steal land which has been in the Walker family or in the private ownership of those who originally purchased or homesteaded it, with undisturbed boundaries for over 100 years.” This action has now revealed the clear direction of the Survey Board: deprive landowners of their property rights in favor of building up the businesses of surveyors as a response to a declining market demand for surveyor services.
No, the Idaho State Board of Surveyors is not interested in the Walker complaint that outlines in great detail the abuses of ethics and procedure by Hunter Edwards. Rather, the Board seeks to promote the cause of the crony system where certain members of this Board have developed relationships with those willing to manipulate survey monuments. Further, the Board attacks honorable surveyors, hired by disadvantaged landowners like the Walkers, to straighten out the “mess created by Edwards,” a law violator.
Similar situations are arising across America according to one nationally known surveying author and commentator who sees a trend of survey Boards supporting the “land-thief” surveyors based on a belief system, that surveyors are empowered to implement their theoretical solutions or out-right client advocacy, rather than retrace the original surveys established by the GLO in the 1800s.
What is really happening here is corruption by a small group of surveyors and engineers, who have been appointed by the governors of the states to “regulate” the practice of surveying, supposedly “in the public interest.” Traditionally, members of these Boards have been given “governmental immunity” so that, even if they are guilty of “aiding and abetting” the surveyor “land-thieves,” they cannot be held personally liable.
Until February of 2015, the members of regulatory boards had an umbrella of sovereign immunity placed over them, however, the US Supreme Court ruled that regulatory boards who used their power to unfairly control trade within their profession, especially if it was for their own advantage or for the advantage of an exclusive minority in their profession and was against the public interest, could be held personally liable for violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (i.e., performing acts that are in restraint of fair trade).
The high Court held that when only members of the profession filled the Board, those individuals could be held personally liable if abuse occurred. However, if there was a member of the public on the board, its members could have the shield of sovereign immunity and avoid being personally liable. Whoa, this was a totally new revelation that struck fear in the heart of every regulatory board member in America who was out to screw the public by building their own little kingdoms.
Of course, the legislatures of every state in the union have now enacted laws to correct this so-called “flaw.” The lawsuits could have had the effect of holding Board members accountable and been used to balance the scales of justice by allowing the injured members of the public, such as Ms. Walker to sue the Survey Board to correct such irresponsible action when they support the “privileged” surveyors of Idaho who are in their little club.
The problem with the regulatory system is that it allows Boards, such as Idaho’s Survey Board, the opportunity to shelter, protect and empower their buddies to take unfair advantage of the public with impunity. We here at the US~Observer have been advised that the same thing is happening in other states across the nation and there is nothing anyone can do about it, unless, the state legislatures figure out who the real bad guys are, and totally de-certify these “insular” Boards that are protecting certain surveyors from accountability, even though they continue to run-amuck, putting private property rights at risk.
A SOLUTION THAT COULD BRING BACK FAIRNESS AND EQUITY
Everybody knows that filing a complaint with a regulatory board based on administrative law is like dealing with a sticky tar baby, where the party seeking justice who once starts down the road of an administrative law proceeding, is required to “exhaust” administrative remedies before a court action can be sought. That party who simply wants to live life undisturbed is caught in a vortex of administrative misery that seems never ending, paying legal fees and spending long hours addressing the issues on paper – a vortex where the financial bleeding never seems to stop.
So, the bottom line is, when a board is so entrenched that it is only interested in the perpetuation of the profit margin or protection of the insiders who are in their club and excludes others by revoking or suspending or disciplining those who are willing to stand up for the truth, it is time to “throw the bums out” and demand something new. There is a way to truly protect the public and not simply put window dressing on a corrupt system where all the players say “nicey-nice” things, with happy-talk, but, then screw the public whenever given the chance.
Remember, “Truth is treason in the kingdom of lies.” Let’s hope that our elected legislators are not afraid to call a spade-a-spade and completely remove the surveyor Board from the law books, putting those who would destroy the American Dream by surveying people out of house and home, out of business.
Contact your legislator and tell them it is time to put a stop to the highly unethical actions of the Idaho Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors who protect and promote special interests and hidden relationships in near total secrecy.
Editor’s Note: The US~Observer is currently working on an update to this case. It will include factual information on the Board violating the “Separation of Powers” doctrine that keeps agencies from doing the job assigned to the court, along with dates and statements directly from the Board. Learn just how the Board purports and strongly proclaims that it only “deals with the ethical and competent practice of land surveyors”, when it, in fact, adjudicates cases (i.e., doing the job of courts) by establishing boundary locations.
The update will also include damning information on Gerald Frye, Chairman of the Board of Grangeville Highway District and the Board Attorney Kurt Naylor, Board member John Elle and others.
If you have any information on the Board or unethical surveyors in Idaho, contact the US~Observer at 541-474-7885 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.