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EDUCATION BOARD'S NEW OFFICES.

ALTERATION OF PLANS.

The adjourned debate on the motion .of Mr P. B. Fraser with reference to the alteration of the plans in the Board's new offices was resumed at this afternoon's meeting of the Board. Mr Snow said the matter had been very fully threshed out, and he quite approved of the motion proposed by Mr P. B. Fraser. - Messrs Clark and" M'Kerbow declined to say anything on the matter. Mr J. F. M. Fraser said there was one matter which he wished to direct attention to. In Mr P. B. Fraser's resolution there were two adverbs which Would give the °. u *si de public,..at any rate,-the impression that the Board were saddling the bulk of the blame on one officer. He did not know that that was intended by the Board. It was not his view, ahd-if it was not the intention of the Board as a whole he would suggest that the words be elided from the motion. What he objected to was the use of the word "gravely" in setting out the share of the blame allotted to'the secretary.

The other members present agreed with Mr Fraser, and Mr P, B. Fraser agreed that the words should be elided. :■"-"•-■•■

The motion was then altered to "read as follows:—" That the architect committed an error of judgment in not personally seeing that the Board knew that the Jetty street plan was the best, ju..! iu altering or agreeing to alter the signed plan without dommunicating with the Board or its chairman ; that the transgressed his proper duties in interfering with the architeot or in giving the architect any approval implied or expressed to alter the Board's plan. The secretary was also at fault in not at once communicating a knowledge of the proposed change ,to" the Board at its first meeting." The Chairman said : Referring to this inquiry I would like to say that it haß been a very painful thing to me to see eo much feeling allowed to come into it; as on an inquiry of this kind members want all their cool and calm judgment to arrive at a fair verdict on the evidence before us. I am satisfied that the whole difference in the first place arose through a misunderstanding, which, it seems to me, waß caused somewhat iu this way: Mr Pryde and Mr Somerville discussed the ground plan of the building, showing the entrance from Jetty street. This they both agree did occur. The difference between them arises as to time, or at what stage the conference took place ; and Mr Pryde suggested some alterations as to the internal arrangements, some of which Mr Somerville carried out and some of which he did not, and that on Mr Pryde approving the alteration "suggested Mr Somerville took it for granted that he ' approved of the alterations of the entrance i from Crawford street to Jetty street. That is my impression of how the first misunderstanding arose, and one reason for my think- ' ™ g S e is this: thafc ifc entif ely agrees with , Mr Somerville's statement to me when I i first spoke to him on the matter, and also I agrees with what he stated to the Board i when'he was called in on the Fridav when : I firßt acquainted the Board of the'altera- ! tions. The statement Mr Somerville first ■■ made to me—the statement he made to _ the Board on the Fridav—and Mr Park's t evidenceare all practically thesame.andagree t on every point. Mr Somerville only |oes ' !?»!; he £ than Mr Park « and g° es on to say that ■ Mr Pryde agreed to the alterations, and he now denies haviDg done so." You will ! remember that I repeated in his presence, at i the Board table, the statement Mr Somerville made to me, and he did not take exi ception to anything I then said. For theße i reasons, among others, lam forced to come to the conclusion that in the first instance i the misunderstanding arose by Mr Pryde's i concurring in certain alterations in the ini ternal arrangements consequent on the s alterations of the entrance from one > street to the other; that Mr Somervillc took it for granted that by : concurring In the internal arrangements i he also agread to the external alterations—a very natural conclusion to come to. Mr Pryde says that he did not agree to,the entrance being altered to Jetty street, but if Mr Somerville did shift it to that street he thought the internal arrangements would be better for the working of the office. Of course he denies ever having discussed the shifting of the entrance, as he says he knew that the mind of the Board was that it should be from Crawford street, but he agrees that he did discuss the internal alterations consequent on the shifting of the entrance, but was not consulted and never knew of the proposed alterations till the planofsnch alterations was sketched out in pencil. Ihis is borne out by the architect's statement to myself, and also his statement to the hoard on the Friday, and is corroborated by Mr Park s evidence which he gave at this, inquiry. I would like to say a few words with reference to what was said by memberson Wednesday night, when we were considering the motion and amendment now be . fo ™ *• meeting. With a good deal of what Mr Fraser then said 1 thoroughly agree, although I do not agree with all hi said. With regard to what Mr MacGregor said-well, I am in a fix as to how I should characterise what he said. I have not been able to satisfy myself that he was really in earnest at all. 1 would be very sorry to *v*i to u- °??, e t0 th , e con olusion that he thinks his fellow-members are so low in the scale of intelligence as to be influenced either one way or other by what he said - as it seems to me all he said was nothing more or less than pure sophistry, and I would like to point out to memners. what seemed to me a good reason for coming to that conclusion. You will remember, gentle! men, that we heard a great deal that night from Mr MacGregor about a plaa of J building showing the entrance from Jetty street which no one would acknowledge ever having seea or heard of, except Mr Somerville himself and Mr Nichol. The whole of Mr MacGrego™ argument was based on the existence of that plan, and also of the knowledge Mr Prvde had of its existence. It seemed to me that he laid as much stress on that plan as affectinc the position as if the Board had chosen it for the plan of the building. And I would ike to say hero that Mr MacGregor scarcely, if at all, during the whole of his remark referred to the plans prepared by order of the Board-the plan chosen for the building or the plan under which the building if being constructed. The plan he told of so much about (I mean the one which no one but Mr Somerville and his assistant ever saw) what are the facts in connection with it. They are these: when Mr Somerville found that the Board intended to build at all he seemß to have sketehed oot a plan in penal to give himself some idea of what sort of a building would fit the sec tion. Thie he evidently did for his ov„ n information M this plan, be it remembered was sketched out before ever he had anv instruction whatever from the Board to preparetwoor three different planefa. the Board to choose one from. Now, for the 'HLh a 1 CaDDOt Bee what any plan he may have drawn, either in pencil « other! wise, previous to his getting the ahorafe sections, has to c\o with The matter oltnis inquiry, or how there can be a eonneotfon in any way with the alterations of the plane the Board approved of and a plan sketehed out n.C- P T IOUB t0 his S ettiD g the B oard-e instructions to prepare plans for the building. • ™ yße } f > after the May meeting, instructed Mr Somerville to have three aeta ot plans ready for the June meeting, so that tney could thus make a choice of one. I did so, as you will remember, by the order of the Board. This he did i and the Board, chose one of those so prepared, which I then signed as approved by the Board. Now what has any plan he may have made Wore he got that instruction to do w : ch thin inquiry I And it is to a plan prepared (if t reUi P n r ff eP th?at aU)P t r to «&*£ getting the above instruction that Mr MacGregor made so much of the other night. w£ Mr e M my p reaS ° n8 f * charactering what Mr MacGregor »H the other night as pure sophistry, b rfC ause be based his whole arguments or, matters which to my *T*iv ?° f CQ & nec «°A whatever with the subject of this inquiry. There is one point w , lich Mf Mae(J carefully kept, away from the other night, and it is this : You will remember that he o secretary for interfering with the plans at all; and ho made out that if it had not been j;qr his interference Mr Somerville wou,d have laid.plans before us only show- »! the entrance from Jetty Btreet. Now,

What are the fattls of the case? They are these: At the May meeting the opinion was unanimously expressed by the members of the Board that the entrance would be from Crawford street; that was at the meeting at which the Board instructed the Finance Committee to have two or three plans ready for the following meeting. That, I am sure members will agree, was the case, and that Mr Pryde knew this seems to me good warrant for his insisting (as Mr Somerville states in his evidence he did) that the entrance should be from Crawford street, which Mr MacGregor so much blamed him for the other night. Mr MacGregor also tried to make some capital of the architect not reporting to the Board direct in writing. I would just like to inform members that ■ever since I have had any connection with the Board every communication of any importance whatever the architect has to make he always doe 3 so in writing. Now, with reference to what Mr MacGregor said as to my causing certain alterations as to the internal doors and a chimney, he said that I caused them to be altered because the secretary wanted . them. I simply say that I caused them to ba altered because I found they were not where they ought to be, nor where they were shown on the plan under which the building was being constructed—that is, the Jetty street plan. See what the architect says in pages 8 and 9 of the evidence. Mr MacGregor tries to make out that we did not consult our architect on the plans of the building; and if wo had consulted him this bungle would not have occurred. Now, I do not know what meaning he puts on the woid consult, but if I had approached him professionally in the same way as the Board approached the architect in this matter I am afraid he would have considered it as a consultation for the purpose of making up the bill of costs ; and rightly so, as I would expect to get the best professional advice he could give me. So I expected the architect to have given the Board his best professional advice on the matter of the building when he was instructed to prepare plans, and folium to say that he was not consulted Is, in my opinion, an insult to the intelligence of the Board. Now, Mrßamsaysaidtheothernight, while we were discussing this matter, that he had not come to a decision on the evidence at all, but had come to a decision on something which he said occurred outside thiß inquiry. I have some delicacy in characterising that statemeut as it deserves, and will leave the members of the Board and the public (whom he talks so much at) to characterise it as they each please. He said that the matter to be inquired into was " which of the officers was guilty of falsehood ? and that some members seemed to fight shy of this issue, and attempts wereonade to obscure it." Now, I am not going to fight shy of that issue, but 1 am going to come to a decision on the evidence aud what I know of my own knowledge. Mr Ramsay says that " a majority of the Board always ranged themselves around the secretary to uphold him in hiß actions ; so much so, in fact, that even the chairmanship had actually been a gift of the secretary, and that no man could occupy the chair without taking an oath of fealty to the secretary." He said " that the present chairman had done so, and that was the cause of the unbearable state of affairs in the Board." Now, when he said this, and a good deal more that the reporters had the good sense to take no notice of, I would not have given him the satisfaction of replying to what he said if he had not alluded to myself so pointedly. He evidently went on the principle "that if he threw plenty of mud some of it might stick. This is the line Mr Ramsay has frequently taken since he has had a connection with the Board, and he has been left alone simply because the other members will not come down to his level and discuss his allegations on his own platform. Nei-.herdol intend to do so now. It has been Mr Ramsay's usual custom, whenever any of the members differed with him ou any subject, to accuse them of being under "official influence." He will .not allow the members of this Board to have 3.mind of their own. They must do one of two thit»'ga—either swallow all his opinions, else they are under "oliicial influence." I flatter myself that I know just a3 well as Mr Ramcay the relations that should exist in an offiee such as this between the members and the officials ; and if I did not I •don't think it would be him I would consult if L wanted knowledge on that matter. And I will Bay this : if it is not right aud proper tfor the members and officials to be on intimate terms it is full time that there was a change in the members, or officials, or both. And I would /Lite to say that I will never be the shadow of any man, either in this Board •or out of it; nor will I be the catspaw of any enan, although more clever than myself, and it would be a good thing for Mr Ramsay if he could say the same. Unfortunately for him, in this instance there iis likely to be a very large majority cf the Board against him in the verdict he has come to, even although ho has found it outside the evidence. With reference to what Jie says as to my being in the chair, I have o&Jy to say that the position is not of my seeking. When the members of this Board did roe the honor to elect me to the chair I understood that I had the confidence of the Board. And if I no longer retain that com i&dence they have only to say 30. I shall not retain this position for a day if I no longer retain the confidence the Board gave me when they put me here. ■Of course I do not expect to have the confidence of anyone who has no confidence or ■trust in anything under heaven but themselves. That has been the bane of this Board. Some of its members have an utter ■distrust of everything but themselves, and anyone who has the presumption to differ "from chem does so from a corrupt motive, How, I would like to aay this to Mr Ramsay: that I have lived in the world somewhat longer than he has done, and pro.bably have seen more phases of human mature than he hao, and I have never yet seea any man who distrusted the whole of mankind but was himself worth watching. l?hat ie the ponclution I have come to Song ago, and I have never yet seen cause to change my views on that question, .jtfaw, with reference to the whole question, I would like to aay a few words, and I m&y say here that I think that both the secretary and architect are blamable. The ■secretary is to blame for not acquainting the Board .that it was suggested to alter the plan that the Board approved of—that is, if he knew of the alterations, and I think of 'that there is ,uo doubt. The architect i 3 ;also to blame in that he altered the plans «aid commenced the work on such altered •pl&iis knowing that the Board had approved ■of 0£« plan, 'and also knowing that the Soard laid expressed their approval of the 'entrance to the building beiDg from Crawford street. Even supposing it was as he asserts in his letter, that the secretary ordered the ■alterations, he had no right, knowing that fche Board had not been consulted, to deviate '.Mm the approved plan tiii he consulted the ißoa*<2 on the matter. But it lias been made •clear t-c my mind by the aud from my own knowledge, that the secretary did not order the alterations, and anyone who will argue that there is no distinction between ordering alterations and concurring in ihe same, as was done the other night, is altogether beyond my comprehension. I &m altogether of opinion that the architect is (primarily to blame, for he is responsible to see that the Board's intentions are carried ■out in his department, and Mr Somerville acknowledges that he knew that the Board had w?b been.consulted on the alterations made. Et seems to' me that \i the architect had ■follo'ced his usual practice in forwarding his ■opinion in writing, on the advisability of •altering the approved plan, all thJ3 trouble would have been obviated. If he had done .so it would have then come before the Board >ia the ordinary course, aud the secretary •would not have had the excuse he now cnakes—"that he entirely forgot the matter" —for we are all aware that any .communication Mr Somerville has to make to the Board he always does in writing. I would like to draw your attention to the evidence. I would refer to poges ;3 and' 9 as to what hesay3 about the altera.tioos of the internal doors; also in (page 14, what he kivs about the inspector* seeing the plans. J have very •good reason for believing that Mr 'Goyen did go into his office to see which joom was to :be allotted to the inspectors, -and I have just as good reason for believing Mr Pryde did not take him in, but •that he went in alone and of his own notion, and Mr Pryde was not in the architect's eoom at ajl .while Mr Goyen was there ;

neither was anyone else but Mr Somerville and himself and possibly Mr Nichol. I would also refer to his evidence in page 74, with reference to the purchase of the bricks for the building. He says: "I bought bricks at 35s when they were selling at £2. It would not be fair to take discount off that man; in fact, he said he would tiot allow it." Well, when Mr Somerville made that statement he showed a great defect of memory, for I had something to do with the purchase of the bricks, and this is what occurred: It came to my knowledge while in Dunedin in June that on the Ist of the month of July the price of bricks was to be raised from 35s to £2, and I at once asked the secretary to get Mr Somerville to go out to the brickworks the following morning and secure what he required at once. I would probably have asked him myself to have done so, but he was not in the office. I saw him the following forenoon, after he had been out, and asked him if he had got them, and he said "he had," but that he "could not have got pressed bricks till November and he had taken the others ; therefore the walls would have to be cemented outside." That is exactly what did occur ; aud his statement about this matter in his evidence confirms me in the belief that his memory is not to be depended on. I am clearly of opinion that in what he says he does not intend to in any way deviate from the truth, but his memory 13 very much at fault; that I firmly believe is the reason of all the cause of difference between the parties to this inquiry. I do not for a moment think that either party is intentionally saying what is not true ; but both are persuaded" that they are absolutely correct in what they sav about this matter, and it is only from a" delect of memory that the difference has arisen, and I venture to say that I have shown that Mr Somerville's memory is not by any means so good as it might be. There is a clause in the resolution before the meeting that I do not agree with at all, and it is this : " The secretary gravely transgressed his proper duties in interfering with the architect, or in giving the architect any approval, implied or expressed, to alter the Board's plans." This paragraph I douotagree with, for it has not been proved thatthesecretary interfered in any way with the architect further than to .say that the entrance should be from Crawford street, which he well knew was the expressed wish of the Board. A good deal has been said about the architect, through his persistence, saving the Board from having the building spoilt, as it would have been if the entrance had been from Crawford street. Now, although I agree that the present plan is an improvement on the one of which we sanctioned the elevation, I am aho of opinion that we could have just as good a ground plan with the entrance from Crawford street as the one on which the building is now being erected. The conclusion I have come to is that the secretary is to blame for not acquainting the Board of the intended alterations. But the architect, to my mind, must bear the whole blame of the altetalions, as he and he only is responsible in his department to see that the intention of tho Board is carried out, and he acknowledges that he knew what the mind of the Board was in this case. That, it seems to me, you cannot get beyond, and it is absurd to try aud ehift the blame on to anyone else. Mr Gallaway said he was very glad to hear the remarks that had been made by the chairman, for he thought that he could now claim his support for a motion which he intended to move afterwards, and that was that the architect should be held entirely responsible in future for the carrying out of works. Referring to the question before them, it seemed to him that there were two ways of arriving at a conclusion in a matter of this sort: (1) by starting with the assumption that someone was telling an untruth, and (2) that both sides were trying to tell the truth, and then arrive at the conclusion of what was the truth. He believed that the majority of the members of the Board had tried to approach this subject calmly. Hisown impression of the matterwas that Mr Somerville undoubtedly originated the idea of the frontage to Jetty street, but he was equally certain that Mr Somerville never proceeded with that building iu the face of what he knew of the Board's resolution unless he had thought that he bad the sanction of the superior executive officer at his back. Whether he had it or had it not he wis not determining now. It seemed to him, however, that the sanction might very reasonably have been given, for these matters were practically left, to the officers. Mr Fraser : The elevation ?

Mr Gailuvay said not the elevation, but the details. Primarily the Finance Committee were to blame ; secondly, the Board ; and thirdly, the officers. He did not want to shield himself behind the Finance Committee's back for their omissions. They might talk about consulting the architect as much as they liked, but they ought to have had the architect before them and had his own information on the matter. The Board might to a certain extent shield themselves behind the Finance Committee and say that if the Committee had done their dutv they would have consulted the architect"; but although he was a member of the Finance Committee he must say that the Board and the Finance Committee were to blame as much as were the officials.

Mr P. B. Fraser, in reply, said that as the members of the Boird were aware that he had taken the opportunity of submitting what he believed to be a fair statement of the matter to the columns of the ' Daily Times' he would save time by submitting that letter as his speech. What he particularly wished to emphasise was that a great injustice had been done all concerned by the bitterness introduced into the inquiry by the attempt to find a liar when there had been no offence worth lying about on either side. He helieved that every one of the parlies (Mr Somerville, and Mr Pryde, and the witnesses) had told the truth to the best of their recollection. Quite obviously nothing could clear either secretary or architect of blame in their respective spheres, but the blame in no respect touched the honor of either of them, and the whole event was but the natural outcome of the present composition of the Board, where there were more critics than workers or administrators.

The Chairman said Mr Gallaway had stated that he took the blame" as a member of the Finance Committee. The speaker could not agree with him on that point. There was a certain duty relegated to the Finance Committee. They were asked to see that the architect provided a few plans, with the power to decide as to one of them and bring up a report. The Committee attended to that. They brought up a report and had the plans laid on the table. The Board adopted the report, and there the duties of ,the Finance Committee ended.

Tiie Hon. J. MacGregor said that he had been 'making an inquiry in regard to the chairman's statement as to the purchase of bricks. The speaker had seen Mr Somerville and asked him his impression. He said he actually bought the bricks before the sale was mentioned. He bought them at 35s before the chairman mentioned the subject to him.

The Chairman : I said so. Mr J. F. M. Fraser : The chairman told the secretarv.

The Hon. J. MacGregor : The architect told him before the subject was mentioned. I am told that after buying the bricks he received the chairman's message. The Chairman : Nonsense.

The Hon. J. MacGregor said that Mr Somerville knew that the price of bricks was to be raised, and it was on that account that he bought them. He had actually bought the bricks before it was mentioned to him at all.

The Chairman said that he told the secretary to tell Mr Somerville to buy the bricks at once, as they would go up in price on the Ist of July.

Mr J. F. M. Fraser : The architect says he went for the bricks before he heard anything from the secretary.

The Hon. J. MacGregor : He bought the brioks before he heard anything from the secretary. The Chairman : That is not so.

The Hon. J. MacGregor's amendment was then put to the meeting and lost on the voices.

Mr P. B. Fraser's motion was then carried, the Hon. J. MacGregor alone dissenting. Mr J. F. M. Fraser: I withdraw my amendousnt fining the parties £ls.

Mr Gallaway then brought forward the motion of which he had previously given notice :—" In order to conduce to the proper conduct of the Board's business it' is'neces-

sary that the architect be held solely'responsible to the Board for all matters concerning his own department, and must report upon all such matters- to the Board; and that for the future the tecretary, in matters outside the ordinary routine of the office, must regard himself and be regarded by tho Board as merely the channel of communication between "the Board and the officials other than the architect uuderitscontrol." The mover desired to omit the words "other than the architect," but Mr J. F. M. Fraser prevented the required unanimous consent to the alterations being given, wherefoi e Mr Gallaway said he would move the motiou as it stood and support an amendment in the direction of the alteration proposed if such amendment were brought forward.

Mr J. F. M. Fraser moved—" That it be an instruction to tho secretary that in future all instructions given to the architect should be in writing, und that a copy of such instructions should be recorded for reference ; and, further, that the architect make a monthly return to the Board of all work done by him since the last meeting of the Board, and that the inspector of works supply a similar return to the architect, which the latter shall lay before the Board." After a prolonged discussion Mr Fraser's motion was carried.

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EDUCATION BOARD'S NEW OFFICES., Evening Star, Issue 10421, 16 September 1897

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EDUCATION BOARD'S NEW OFFICES. Evening Star, Issue 10421, 16 September 1897

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