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THE AMMONIA LAW CASES., Issue 7980, 8 August 1889
THE AMMONIA LAW CASES.
The recent law cases against the City Corporation came up at last night’s meeting of the City Council in the shape of the following report from the Gas Committee “ Your Committee recommend that they be empowered to carry the Crawford street gas main over the arch of the High street sewer, at an estimated cost of L4O; that they be empowered to Call tenders for the levelling and lengthening of a further portion of the hydraulic mains in' the new retort-hoiise, at an estimated cost of L 125 ; that they be empowered to call tenders for the supply (delivery at the gasworks) of twenty • five tons of Sydney shale. In carrying out the extension of the Cumberland street main for taking a supply of gas to the Exhibition Buildings, yotir Committee have considered it advisable to carry the main farther down the street with'd View of perfecting the reticulation and supplying certain applicants for gas, and have authorised the completion of this work. Your Committee have to report that the decision of the Supreme Cc/urt in the case of Schmidt v. the Corporation has been given adversely to the Corporation, judgment being for L 25 damages and costs, and the granting of an injunction restraining the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia in such a manner as to Cause annoyance. In the case of Gorrfofl V. the Corporation an order has been granted ,by the Judge in Chambers staying proceedings Upon payment of L 25 damages and costa Ll3 13s, and some disbursements for fees. Accounts amounting to L 534 3a 4d are passed for payment.” The Mayor moved the adoption of the report, which was seconded by Cr Sinclair.
Cr Cohen said he wished to get an opinion from the Council re the action against the Corporation. He thought that the public required and were entitled to an explanation of the facts in regard to the matter. He understood that at a certain period the Council got notice that they were liable to have a writ issued against them with respect to an alleged nuisance at their works, and that it was possible at that stage of the proceedings to Settle the matter by giving a sum of money. The Gas Committee thought that these proceedings had keen taken with the view of harassing the Council, and they thought the time had come when they should say that such cases should go on no longer. The Committee appointed a sub committee, who appeared to have consulted Kempthorne, Prosser, and Co., and certain proceedings were then taken mistakenly, he thought, because their effect was to relieve Kempthorne, Prosser, and Co. of certain obligations they were under to the Council. As far as he could discover, the Council had never been consulted in the matter, and the Committee would have acted more wisely if they had gone to the Council and stated the position, when the Council could have said that a certain line should be taken. The Committee’s action was a complete giving away of the Council, because if the nuisance was created by Kempthorne and Prosser the Corporation had the right of redress against them under terms of an agreement, if, on the other hand, the Corporation did not have such redress, it was the duty of the Committee to go to the Council for advice. No doubt the mayor would satisfy him as to whether the Committee had not failed in its duty, and also as to whether it was a fact, as had keen whispered outside, that the agreement with Kempthorne and Co. had no legal value whatever. If so, he would like to know why the Committee entered into an agreement that would not hold water, Cr Sinclair suggested that as there were some very important matters involved the discussion should be taken in committee. He felt very strongly on the matter, and he wished to be at liberty to speak as strongly as ho would like. There were things requ’ring to be said which should not be said in public. Cr Haynes supported the suggestion, and Cr Ckamond opposed it.
Or Barron said this was the first time he had heard of a committee appointing a subcommittee from themselves, and he held that the whole Committee were in the same position as the sub-Commlttee they appointed. Cr Cohen said he always deprecated going into committee when large matters of public policy were involved, as such a course was very unsatisfactory to the public. He wanted to know why certain actions had been taken which had saddled the Corporation with a liability of L4OO or LSOO, while the matter could have been settled for L4O or LSO.
The Mayor said ho did not wish to go into committee ; he was ready to publicly explain his action in the matter, but thought it would be well to hold over the matter until all the members of the Committee were present. Cr Fish was not present, but he could and would be present if it were adjourned. The whole question wanted explanation. The whole question of the first case was referred to the Gas Committee with power to act, and then that Committee, of which he was chairman, at a meeting attended by all the members, thought it advisable to appoint a sub-com-mittee to carry out the case, Cr Cohen : Cr Smith was not present. The Mayor said that at all events a majority of the Committee thought it advisable to appoint a sub committee to carry out a scheme for arranging the matter. Cr Smith said he saw no necessity for postponing the matter. He was not present at the meeting of the Gas Committee referred to, and he did not attend any until the case had been decided. Just before the case was decided ho heard incidentally that there had been an arrangement made with Kempthorne, Prosser, and Co. whereby they were to be relieved of a certain responsibility they had undertaken in the way of protecting the Council against damages. Ho never saw that in any of the reports to the Council. It was his opinion, and the opinion of several lawyers whom ho had consulted, that that bond was good, and the Council ought to have claimed from Kempthorne and Co. any loss that was occasioned. His Worship knew the facts ; let him give them. He understood that the Mayor and Cr Sinclair were present, with the Corporation solicitors. Cr Sinclair said that every step that had been taken was regulated by the Corporation solicitors, and the Committee were therefore not to blame. Cr Carroll said he was one of the subcommittee, and he could say that they were forced into the business. The bond given by Kempthorne and Co. to relieve the Council of all liability was not worth the paper it was written on—it only indemnified them for the L 25 that judgment was given for, and not for costs. Cr Kimbell said they were only holding out inducements to people to bring claims for small sums against the Corporation. If they did not face the difficulty to-day they would have to on the morrow. He would move—“ That all accounts in connection with this case bo placed in the hands of our solicitors, and that they be instrticted to recover the amounts from Kempthorne and Prosser.”
The Mayor said the matter was referred to the Committee with power to act. The Gas Committee had been getting accounts for damages to certain houses, and thought that the mass of them were bogus claims, and that by responding to them they would simply be holding out an inducement for others to send in claims. Thus they would have the same difficulty continually cropping up, and they determined that they would put a stop to it. The Committee consulted the Corporation’s solicitors, and they advised them to take the action they did.
Cr Lke Smith : In the face of a letter written to the contrary a little before ? The Mayor said that was so. They were being blackmailed, and determined to fight a case and so ascertain their position. He had only a day or two ago been himself appointed by the Gas Committee to settle another case, and that being so, there could not he anything wrong in giving similar Sower to four men. Mr Justice Williams’s ecision simply meant that the Council had no power to remove their responsibility on to another as far as the gasworks were concerned, and he put it clearly when be pointed out the various things they could let land for and free themselves of responsibility. The Council did right to fight the thing out to the bitter end, and those men who were plaintiffs in the action would ho cautious of entering another action against the Council on account of the gasworks. If that action had been
quietly Settled, it would have meant that three or fottr other applications would have come in, and still more would have followed. He wished it to be distinctly understood, with reference to the letter of the solicitors recommending the Committee to give them power to settle, that the meeting was called! immediately after it was received ; and one of the solicitors was present, and fell in with the ideas of the Committee that perhaps it was best that the thing should be brought to s. final issue. There were worse things io connection with the matter that might bo mentioned, but he did not see that it was necessary to go into them. Cr Lee Smith : The vital point has not. been touched yet. Cr Cohen said the question was— what was snid to the Corporation solicitors at that interview that caused them to change their opinion ? The Mayoe repeated that when the solicitor was called there the Committee at ones reviewed the letter, and it was agreed that it was better to fight this thing to the end than be always pressed for bogus claims. Cr Cohen said that the Council had abrogated its rights under the agreement, and it was their plain duty, when they found it would not bold water, to go to the Council, and report it.
Cr Solomon gave a long history of thff affair, in the course of which he took cocassiou to deny a rumor that he held mortgage* over the properties of the people who had been engaged in the cases against the Corporation/ As to Kempthorne and Co.’ff guarantee he was not prepared to B»Jf whether it was good or not, but if the" Council received an indemnity from them, then they had to show that the sulphuretted hydrogen came from their works and not from the gasworks before they could have ' any redress. Then he did not think the claims were bogus ones. The Judge did not talk of them in that light. It would b« found that throughout the decision there wan sympathy with the plaintiffs. It did not seem to him that the Committee bad acted as he would have done, but they did their best, no doubt. Cr Kimbell asked what was the position of matters at this stage. The Mayor said that the position was as to the adoption of the Gas Committee’s report, which he would now pftt. The motion was carried on Che voices.
THE AMMONIA LAW CASES., Issue 7980, 8 August 1889
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