April 30, 1929

LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

May I interrupt the hon. gentleman? As a member of the jury, I have listened with care and attention to my hon. friend. May I ask if there is on the file a letter from Mr. Woods complaining of his treatment by Mr. Griffith?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Perhaps I was reading rather rapidly and the hon. gentleman did not follow me. I read Mr. Woods' complaint, which was prior in point of time to the action taken. Then there is a letter from Mr. Coolican in which he encloses a copy of the letter I have read, followed by a further statement dated April 6, from District Superintendent Woods to the Deputy Postmaster General:

Referring to your telephone conversation of March 5 and letter of that date confirming the same, which gave instructions that when I was absent from the office even temporarily I was to leave in charge Mr. Griffith.

I beg to say that on the 5th instant I was absent attending the funeral of a very old friend, and during my absence Inspector Emerson was in charge, due to Inspector Griffith's absence in Montreal.

Trusting that this may meet with approval, I remain.

Then follows this letter, which I feel I must read, even though I have trespassed upon the time of the committee, but I can regard few matters as being of greater importance to the public interest than the communications I have just read. This letter is dated April 8, 1929-this present month-and is addressed to the Postmaster General himself:

Dear Mr. Minister,-

Since becoming a member of the Post Office Department-

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UFA

Henry Elvins Spencer

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. SPENCER:

Who is the writer?

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

It is written by District Superintendent Woods to the minister himself, and is dated April 8, 1929:

Dear Mr. Minister:

Since becoming a member of the Post Office Department I have avoided addressing communications directly to the ministers, believing that the proper course was to carry on correspondence pertaining to the work of the office with and through the regularly appointed officials.

On account, however, of the apparent misconception of a serious breach of discipline, reported to the general superintendent on March 4th last, which has not been investigated, I am taking the liberty of calling your personal attention to this and other matters of irregularity committed by Inspector W. F. Griffith of this office.

From the time that Mr. Griffith came directly under the supervision of the district office he has shown signs of insubordination, so much so that on occasions he used to me insult-

ing language and while I admit that I should have reported him for this in the early days, I refrained from doing so hoping that he would eventually cease his bluster, bluff and loud talking.

May I in this regard call attention, Mr. Chairman, to the reports made by Mr. Woods with reference to Mr. Griffith. Let hon. members read them; they will now appear on the record. He gives him ratings of 90 per cent, 80 per cent, and 70 per cent, and I venture to think that no one who had not the fairest mind could give such an estimate of another in the light of the treatment he had received at that man's hands. It shows at least that he had no animus so far as the public service rendered by Mr. Griffith was concerned.

In the year 1926 the postmaster of Dupey's Corner, Westmorland county, was short in his accounts, and Mr. Griffith was sent to investigate. This investigation showed that the total shortage amounted to $845.61, and the postmaster made an offer to clear up the deficit by instalments, which the department accepted, but according to our files the only amount received from the postmaster up to June, 1927, was $150, which was placed in the Bank of Montreal, Saint John, to the credit of the Receiver General, on December first, 1926. From this on the postmaster appeared delinquent, and reminders received from the department were referred to Mr. Griffith; and on different occasions a memo was sent to the department giving some reason or other as to why more payments were not received from the postmaster.

Not being satisfied with the course the inspector had been pursuing in the case, I made a trip to Dupey's Corner on the 13th of June, 1927, and on interviewing the postmaster he gave me information that a much larger amount was paid by him than that placed to his credit, and showed me a record in his registration book of having sent to Mr. Griffith at his home address two registered letters, one of November 8th, 1926, and the other of December 2nd. 1926, containing $200 and $40 respectively. Verification that the registered letters were duly received and delivered was received at Shediac and Saint John. Postmaster also produced receipts from Mr. Griffith for the folio-wing amounts:

August 23rd, 1926 $40 00

September 30th, 1926 50 00

of which no record could be found at this office. These amounts, together with the $240 stated to have been sent by registered mail to the inspector, made an amount of $330 which the postmaster claimed to have paid, but as there was only the sum of $150 standing to his credit, there was a discrepancy of $180.

On interviewing Mr. Griffith in regard to this, he was asked how much money the postmaster paid him, and he replied that all he received was the amount that the file stated, but said that the last time he was in Ottawa they (meaning the financial branch) had talked with him regarding the postmaster's shortage and from the conversation that took place it would appear that there was a slight difference

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in the amount due-a difference of one or two dollars. After some more conversation with the inspector he admitted that he had received the two registered letters referred to, that he had not reported the receipt of the money, and that in doing so he had violated the regulations. It was pointed out that, according to the postmaster's statement and our records, he (Griffith) had collected $180 which he had not accounted for, and he was asked where this money was. He stated that he had it at home, hut this was a deliberate falsehood, as I have proof that the $180 he gave me that day was borrowed from a gentleman in this city.

In the year 1925 there was a number of abstraction cases reported that had as a common point Shediac, and Mr. Griffith was assigned the duty of investigating same, with the result that the son of the mail contractor between the post office and railway station at Shediac, was charged with the crime and acknowledged same.

The father agreed to make good the amount chargeable to his son's defalcations, and Mr. Griffith collected an amount sufficient to cover all the abstractions that had been reported which could reasonably be charged to this case. After the department had made final settlement there was an amount of $29 to be refunded to the contractor. On this amount being tendered to him he gave information that it was $15 short, and he made a statement under oath that some time in the month of October, 1925, Mr. Griffith called at his home and told him that it would be necessary for him to pay $15 more, and that this amount was handed to Mr. Griffith in the presence of his wife. This statement was verified under oath by the contractor's wife.

As this amount had not been accounted for by Mr. Griffith, he was questioned in regard to it, and while he did not deny that he received the money, he did not admit it, and up to the present this office does not know whether the $15 has been paid back to the contractor or not, but there is no doubt that the sworn statement of the contractor is correct.

The regulations require inspectors to keep the district superintendent advised as to their whereabouts, but for at least the last two years Inspector Griffith has practically ignored this duty, although his and the department's attention has been called to it frequently.

He has on many occasions failed to pay prompt attention to work assigned to him, some of which had been specially requested by the department.

The last glaring exhibition of his insubordination occurred on the first of March last-the day I returned to the office after my trip to the West Indies. On this date he called me a "liar", "dirty cur", and a "damned quibbler", and this in the presence of a number of the staff. This incivility was reported on March 4th and the only notice that has been taken of it as far as I know is an acknowledgment of its receipt from the Assistant Deputy Postmaster General, with the exception of a visit the chief inspector made to this office which lasted from noon of March 25th until the afternoon of March 28th. .

The chief inspector brought with him an order from the Deputy Postmaster General placing the chief inspector in charge of the office for an indefinite period, and naturally

I assumed that the object of his visit was to investigate the charges I made against Inspector Griffith, but to my surprise I was told by Mr. Fortier that he was not here for that purpose, but for the purpose of getting the office to function in a correct manner. He was asked in what particular this was not being done, and he told me that I was not speaking to Mr. Griffith and was giving him orders in writing. It was explained that I had adopted the plan of giving this inspector written orders for the reason that he was rarely in the office, and the only sure way to catch him was by written memorandum, as well as being the only safe way to deal with him.

By issuing written instructions there could be no chance of his stating that the orders were never given, or that what I said to him yesterday was different from what I said to him to-day.

I perhaps have said enough to show you that I certainly have much reason to complain because of the discourteous conduct of Mr. Griffith to me personally, and surely I have made my charges against him of insubordination and dishonesty sufficiently strong to have some action taken by the department, besides that of putting an officer from the department in charge of the district office for an indefinite period.

Permit me to call your attention to Section 98 of the Post Office Act, which distinctly states that any official connected with the post office, who deals with funds as Mr. Griffith did with money that was paid to him by the Postmaster of Dupey's Corner, is guilty of an indictable offence. He can also be charged with obtaining money under false pretences, in regard to the Shediac case. This, together with his disregard of the regulations of the department and the exhibition he made of himself before a number of the staff, is certainly worthy of greater chastisement than the promotion to the charge of the district office during my absence.

While civil servants guilty of indictable offences are sometimes saved from the full penalty of the law, this is the first case I know where an officer has been permitted to hold his position, and I have reason to believe that flagrant insubordination, such as this man has been guilty of, to go unpunished, is not conducive to the betterment of the service; and knowing you as w'ell as I do, I am convinced that with these facts before you, you will arrange to have the order, issued by the deputy on March 5th, making it necessary to place Mr. Griffith in charge during my absence, rescinded; and the order of March 22nd, placing the district office in charge of Mr. Fortier of Ottawa, recalled.

If this is done, and proper punishment administered to Mr. Griffith, I can assure you that there will be no question as to the correct functioning of the district office at Saint John.

I remain,

Your obedient servant.

H. W. Woods, District Superintendent.

A letter was written apparently on April 15, 1929, a week later by Mr. John Emerson to the

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Postmaster General. This letter I shall have to read inasmuch as it is directed to the chief of the department:

Honourable P. J. Veniot,

Postmaster General,

Ottawa.

Dear Sir,

Referring to the absence of District Superintendent H. W. Woods during his trip to the West Indies, and authority contained in letter to Mr. Woods dated the 9th of January from P. T. Coolican, Esq., Assistant Deputy Postmaster General, advising that during his absence the office was to be left in charge of Mr. W. F. Griffith, inspector of postal service, I beg to draw yonr attention to the fact that on the 12th of January I wrote a personal letter to the Assistant Deputy Postmaster General, protesting against the action of the department in view of the fact that I am the senior inspector of the Saint John postal district, and as such have always been in charge of the district during the absence of the district superintendent. '

Receiving no reply in connection with this protest, I wrote a letter on the 2nd of February to L. J. Gaboury, Esq., Deputy Postmaster General, quoting a letter to me over his personal signature, dated the 18th of July, 1924, in which he ruled that in the absence of the district superintendent from duty for any reason, the senior inspector of postal service is to take charge automatically. I further drew his attention to the fact that I have been in the service since July first, 1890, and was promoted to an inspectorship on July first, 1917, whereas W. F. Griffith entered the service as a transfer helper in 1908 and was appointed an inspector on October first, 1925. From this it will be seen that I was appointed an inspector more than eight years previous to the appointment of Mr. Griffith, and have been in the service eighteen years longer than he.

I wrote very fully, showing that Mr. Griffith has not been performing his duties in a proper manner, and denoting particulars in this regard. I also drew his attention to the fact that the district superintendent had refused to recommend increases of pay for him on at least two occasions, and further asked the Deputy to advise me on what grounds I was passed over and a junior given charge of the district.

Not receiving any reply to this letter, I again wrote the Deputy Postmaster General on the 9th of March, giving more data in connection with this question, and asked for a reply. 1 may say that I received a reply dated the 12th of March, in which he stated that acting on your instructions he had notified Mr. Woods that in future during any absence from the office Mr. Griffith was to be in charge. He further stated that my letter of the 9th of March was handed over to you, and I have been patiently waiting for a reply in connection with same.

I also take it for granted that my letter of the 2nd February to the Deputy Postmaster General has been placed in your hands.

I may advise you that I was very much surprised at your action in practically demoting me and placing a junior inspector over me in the Saint John postal district. Surely, after reading the information contained in my letters of the 2nd February and 9th of March to the deputy, the fact should be apparent to you that

Mr. Griffith is not a fit and proper person to be in charge of the postal service even for one day.

As you must be aware, he has been charged in reports to the department from the district office for not making a return of a sum of money in the neighborhood of $200, which he collected on post office account from the postmaster at Dupey's Corner, Westmorland county in the latter part of the year 1926, and when on June 20th, 1927. the district superintendent brought the matter to a head and demanded an accounting of the moneys collected, he was unable to produce same, which is evidence that he converted same to his own use. In this regard I would inform you that on the afternoon of the above-mentioned date Mr. Griffith borrowed $200 and the cancelled cheque can be produced at any time when an investigation is held.

According to the Post Office Act. section 98, this man was guilty of an indictable offence in this matter.

There is also one other charge -which I am prepared to prove, and that is, that W. F. Griffith has been practically commercialising his position as an inspector by borrowing money and accepting gifts from some of those over whom he has had supervision, and also those who have been looking for advancement in the service. You will remember that there were two civil service commissioners relieved of their offices by the honourable Premier of Canada for an offence such as this.

For your information I may say that the present trouble in the Saint John postal district is due practically to the actions of this man, and I cannot see how, in view of the different charges that have been made against him, you. as the honourable head of the postal service in Canada, can come to any other conclusion than that he is not a fit and proper person to occupy any position of trust in the Post Office Department. In my humble opinion, the regulations in this case should be administered and this man dismissed from the service.

I would therefore respectfully ask that previous to your leaving Canada you instruct the Deputy Postmaster General to countermand the order issued at your behest to the effect that W. F. Griffith is to rank over me in the postal service.

I may say that in addition to the letters to the Assistant Deputy Postmaster General and Deputy Postmaster General, I stated my case to H. Fortier, chief inspector of the Post Office Department, when he was in St. John a few weeks ago.

Trusting that you will reply to this letter at as early a date as possible, I remain,

Your obedient servant,

(Sgd.) John Emerson,

Inspector of Postal Service.

There is no reply to that communication upon the file, and I am not in a position to say whether or not a reply was sent. Neither am I in a position to state from the file itself whether or not Mr. Griffith is still the ranking officer in the St. John post office, but I can say that I am not relying upon rumour when I make the assertion that Mr. Griffith has openly boasted that he is practically the Postmaster General in the province of New Brunswick.

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I say to you, Mr. Chairman, and to this committee, having read the correspondence, which I have endeavoured to present as far as possible without unreasonable or unfair comment, that it indicates a condition in the public service Which one would not believe possible if one did not read it with his own eyes or hear it with his own ears. It is almost incredible that a postmaster general should direct officials of his department to take the actions which have been taken in these cases in the light of the knowledge he possessed as to the conditions under which this office was administered. We do say that under the circumstances disclosed by this file, read without comment and without inferences being drawn, a situation has been disclosed which is an open disgrace to this Dominion of Canada. Worse than that, it reflects not only upon the Post Office Department but upon every department of the government. With the knowledge now possessed by the Prime Minister; in view of the position he has taken in connection with the public service on many occasions, of which the address he made over the radio the other evening is an example; with his earnest desire to maintain the integrity of the civil service, here is an opportunity for him to give concrete expression to that desire. The Postmaster General of Canada should no longer be in a position which will enable him to wreck the careers and ruin the futures of men who are his sub-

District Superintendent Woods had been carrying on the work of the district office as it should be carried on, why should he give Inspector Griffith the rating he did give him, on which I, as Postmaster General, would have to base my opinion of Griffith's work? No better rating, unless he was rated perfect, could have been given to Griffith than was given by District Superintendent Woods in 1927, and that report contained not one word of complaint against Inspector Griffith as to his absence from duty, as to his refusing duty, as to his non-attendance to duty or anything of that kind. Nothing along this fine was received until Inspector Emerson, Superintendent Woods and Inspector Griflith got into a row; then the whole story came out. Until that time, so far as the reports show there was nothing against Griffith. I am not now dealing with the Dupey's Corner case, which I will take up in a few moments, nor am I dealing with the Shediac case; leaving those two cases aside no one could have obtained a better rating than District Superintendent Woods gave Griffith. With that rating before me, and Mr. Woods having refused to recommend the yearly increase in salary to Inspector Griffith in spite of that rating, I believe I was quite justified in overruling that decision, acting upon the rating he had given this man. At that time I was not aware-

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

Isn't that awful?

ordinates.

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LIB

Peter John Veniot (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Hon. P. J. VENIOT (Postmaster General) :

Mr. Chairman, in rising to reply to some of the remarks of the leader of the opposition I must first admit that his attitude this afternoon, although I am not complaining about it, has taken me rather by surprise. If I had known that my hon. friend intended to discuss this question in all its details I too could have reviewed the files and put myself in a position to meet his every argument.

At the outset let me point out that my hon. friend, in opening his remarks, said there were only two inspectors in the St. John district. There are four inspectors there. While that mis-statement of fact does not detract at all from the argument he attempted to advance, still it is well to keep the record clear. There are four inspectors in the St. John postal district, three at St. John and one at Moncton.

It is not my intention to discuss all the charges made by my hon. friend during the reading of these files, because an investigation into these questions has been begun and is proceeding along proper departmental lines; a thorough investigation will be made. However, I would like to point out that if

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LIB

Peter John Veniot (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. VENIOT:

Yes, it is very awful to have that happen, and it is very awful that hon. gentlemen never revealed it but kept it strictly to themselves.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

I read the rating which was given the gentleman.

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LIB

Peter John Veniot (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. VENIOT:

And it was an excellent rating.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Except that it said he was a thief.

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LIB

Peter John Veniot (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. VENIOT:

I want to say that neither Superintendent Woods, Inspector Emerson nor my friend the leader of the opposition can make the people of St. John believe that W. F. Griffith is a thief.

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CON

Richard Burpee Hanson

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. HANSON:

Put him on trial and see.

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LIB

Peter John Veniot (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. VENIOT:

That is what I am doing.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. POULIOT:

We listened to you; now listen to us.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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LIB

Peter John Veniot (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. VENIOT:

It was understood that this matter would not be discussed in the house while the investigation was under way. That is why I am merely bringing out one or two

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important facts, because I do not wish to do anything which might prejudice the investigation which is now proceeding.

Let us first consider the Shediac affair. This took place in 1925 and I was in no way responsible for it nor connected with it as Postmaster General. I knew nothing about the affair until 1927 when this matter was brought up regarding the payment of $15 to Mr. W. F. Griffith. The parties interested had paid to Griffith other items amounting to $334, and he held receipts for same and showed them to Inspector Woods. When the claim was made that there was a shortage of $15, Mr. Griffith made the statement that if these people would say they had paid him S15 he would accept their word because they were honest people, but they could not show any receipt or any voucher for that payment. I would direct the attention of the house to this fact; the $15 paid to Griffith was not money due to the Post Office department, and the discrepancy would be as between Griffith and the person who had paid the $15.

Now we come to the matter of Dupey's Corner post office. That defalcation took place before I was Postmaster General, and the first trouble arose during the time our friends were in power for a short period in July, 1926.

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CON

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

May I ask the hon. minister a question?

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

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CON

Robert James Manion

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

My hon. friends asked questions pretty often, and I have a right to ask one of the minister. Does the name of any minister of our government appear in this affair at all?

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LIB

Ernest Lapointe (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. LAPOINTE:

There was no minister, Mr. MANION: Oh yes, there was.

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April 30, 1929