The director of Lewiston’s Department of Community Development said all the buildings designed by the firm owned by architect Don Bott are safe, in spite of Bott apparently letting his license lapse in 2009.

Bott and Associates continued to submit plans to Community Development for dozens of projects over the past decade under Bott’s signature. It triggered an Idaho State Police investigation when city staff discovered the licensing issue a couple of weeks ago, and Community Development has turned over five years of building permits that were issued with the assumption that Bott was a licensed architect, according to Director Laura Von Tersch.

“I think we were completely blindsided that a respected member of the land development community had let his license lapse,” Von Tersch said. “He’s one of three primary firms we deal with on a week-in, week-out basis. He put himself out as a licensed practitioner, and we had no reason not to believe him.”

The building permits include the value of construction, a number that is important because architects typically charge for their services based on a percentage of that valuation, she added.

Bott did not respond to a call Wednesday seeking comment. Ed Westbrook, the ISP captain assigned to the Bott case, declined to talk about the nature of his investigation since it is ongoing. Nez Perce County Prosecutor Justin Coleman didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Von Tersch said her department typically checks the license of any new firms or individuals it deals with, while Bott and Associates has been doing business in Lewiston for decades. The department is considering the use of random audits to catch any other lapses, she added, but with more than 400 licensed professions in Idaho, it wouldn’t be feasible to check all licenses on a regular basis.

And even though Bott’s firm designed so many projects, all of them were constructed according to the usual Community Development processes, which includes design review, building permit approval and periodic inspections of construction. There is therefore no danger to the public from any of the firm’s designs, Von Tersch said.

“We don’t have a lapse of public safety,” she said.

She noted that Bott’s assistant, Michell Radamaker, has been doing the majority of the firm’s work for several years under what Community Development assumed was Bott’s valid license. Von Tersch said Radamaker’s designs have always been thorough and of high quality.

“She’s a highly skilled individual,” she said. “Her work is technically very good, so I don’t think we’re going to have any concerns along those lines.”

The revelations around Bott’s license triggered stop-work orders on several of his firm’s projects in Lewiston. They include the new Colortyme location at 1440 Main St., which was about to receive a building permit from the city. That project has now secured the services of Brotnov Architecture and Planning in Clarkston and its permit should be issued shortly, Von Tersch said.

Projects for Bentz Boats and Guy’s Outdoor Equipment are still on hold, however, as Community Development awaits confirmation that their owners have secured the services of licensed design professionals.

“We’re trying to assist (Bott’s) clients in any way we can so it’s not a huge show-stopper for them,” Von Tersch said. “It has that potential, but we’re trying to manage the situation for them.”

Bott’s firm also worked extensively around Idaho, and at some point had licenses to work in Oregon and Washington. Those licenses had also lapsed, but the Washington State Department of Licensing listed his license as being reactivated as of Oct. 1.

Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2266.

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