Regardless of conflict of interest issues, an acceptable weld is an acceptable weld. Should I notice one on steel being erected or any other product that is owned by the company that hired me, I will make someone aware of it.
Should that item be somehow attached to me, I must make that clear to whomever I report it to (which should be the organization that hired me)
The steel fabrication and erection industry is full of extremes on both sides. I see AISC fabricated steel with slag still on the welds and I see "mom and pop" shop items that look like they were done by a machine!
If items "comply", they comply. If they do not, they do not!
The issue of "conflict" is stated like this in QC1
11.4.1 The SCWI, CWI, or CAWI shall avoid a conflict of interest with the employer or client and shall disclose any business association, or circumstance that might be so considered.
Note that the word "Shall" is used. It is not optional.
The method by which the disclosure is made is not addressed. It could be verbal, phone call, email or in a report. So it is possible the inspector has complied with QC1.
It has been my experience that the majority of erected steel that I have inspected in my region has numerous conditions that do not "meet the code" and when I document issues that do not comply with the code, the erector or fabricator indicates that it's my issue.
My very 1st "special inspection" contained a statement similar to "...the last guy just looked for the burnt paint under the bar joists...". That statement was made after asking for a ladder to gain access.
If you're interested, here is some more "opinion" I have on the subject of inspecting steel and within this article there is another related link.https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/special-inspections-followup-gerald-austin/
I have been in the welding industry for about 38 years and I can say that the most difficult industry to work with as far as quality and code compliance goes has been the structural steel erection industry.
I have worked both sides and actually got into inspection because of inspectors making up their own rules. I would challenge anyone that has held someone to something not specified. Unfortunately, the norm is not what is specified but what has been accepted in the past.
If there is an issue with your organization's welds, then focus on that. If an inspector is marking up things that he or she sees that are NOT related to what the code says, then focus on that. A report addressing documented conditions that counters what an inspector noted that contains code references and pictures can go a long way.
If I walk by a rejectable weld on a project, I should let someone know. How I do that and the amount of detail needs to be carefully thought out. Since 100% visual inspection may not be required by the special inspector, then only the fabricator and erector are responsible.
Sometimes reputations vary among the peer group. A great steel erector may look one way to a purchasing agent or engineer and yet another way to someone with up-close access to product.
Those are my thoughts but based solely upon my very limited experience in the wide ranging world of welding.
Have a great day.