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THE CARMARTHEN CORPORATION…

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THE CARMARTHEN CORPORATION AND THE SURVEYOR. THE proceedings at Monday's meeting of the Carmarthen Town Council were of exactly the character which we anticipated. Some members spoke out their minds without fear or favour, some shuffled, and some took upon themselves the office of counsel for the defence. There was a general air of terror over the whole assembly before the report of the Finance Committee was read. To watch the efforts which were made to suppress it, would have inclined a spectator to the belief that the Town Clerk had a dynamite bomb in his pocket, and was only waiting the order to throw it on the taole and to strew the room with the mutilated fragments of councillors and aideimen. Some wanted the report not to he read at all others merely wanted tl e Press turned out; whilst others again would be quite content to leave the Press to use their own discretion in the matter. But when the report was read, the resigna- tion of the surveyor was accepted without discussion. Mr W. Vincent Howell Thomas then fairly took away the breath of the more timid members by suggesting that criminal proceedings should be taken, and that an example should be made of any official who deals dishonesty with the Council." If Mr Thomas had not mentioned this aspect of the matter, it is doubtful if it would ever have been even discussed, for the proceed- ings of the Council have latterly sunk to the tame level of the weekly meetings of a Dorcas Society. There are men who crow loudly enough outside, and who have acquired a reputation for heroic bravery; but if they could be induccd-Iabouringundersomeextra- ordinaty enthusiasm—to say "Bch"! to a goose inside the walls of the Council Chamber I they would in all likelihood go about admiring themselves for the next twelve months in the firm conviction that they ought to have a halo around their heads, and the Victoria Cross on their manly bosoms! Plain- speaking therefore, comes on an astonished Council in the nature of an electric shock. Whether Air W. Vincent Howell Thomas was light, or wrong in what he said is a mere detail. The fact remains that we have at any rate, one member who can stand up in the face of the sun and in the eye of the light and fearlessly tell the Council, what in his opinion, It is their duty to do—when that something is unpleasant. And the adoption of the proposal would not have wronged an innocent man. In a case in which proceed- ings are not taken, there is always a chance for some people to say that justice was not done. On the other hand no injustice could possibly be done by instituting proceedings for the law would require—before convictin°" —that the case be proved up to the hilt. As a good barrister often succeeds in securing an acquittal for the guilty, it would be child's play for counsel to clear an innocent man. The efforts which were made to keep the facts of the case from the public have been singularly futile, for in another column of the present issue will be found a resume of them. As a matter of fact, the case is very much smaller than were the exaggerated statements which were flying about the street corners but if the report had been withheld the slander-wagging tongue of Rumour would have had free play. The only plausible reason for secrecy which was put forth was that urged by the Town Clerk-that it was inadvisable to publish beforehand the evidence on which legal proceedings might be based. Such publication might then,"of course, tend to prejudice t'tic ca.e. The Council, however, having decided not to prosecute, there is now no case to prejudice rid no legitimate object to serve hy suppress- ing the Report of the I'Yunce Committee. lad it been decided to prosecute, of course, L Mc case would have been ,-ntire'. y different, as the facts would have beer, thoroughly thrashed out at the trial. To suppress the report under the present circumstances would however, be to treat the Carmarthen public as so many babies. It was, indeed, suggested that the reporters should remain in the room while the document was being read, but that they should not take any note of the case. Assuming that the reporters turned out to be such very dutiful and obedient servants of the Council—a suggestion which the Car- 09 marthen public will entertain with a smiIe- the meeting would have been practically held with closed doors. A reporter who does not report is, of course, no reporter-to express it paradoxically. The essence of the confidence of the public in the Press is its external position with regard to that which it records. Once let the reporter become a mere spectator, who takes instructions as to what he shall see and as to what he shall close his eyes to, and the Press ceases to exist in the proper English acceptation of the term. The public would not then be furnished with an account of the doings of their representatives they would be merely furnished with what these representatives desired to have recorded of themselves. Local bodies had much better exclude the Press, or admit it without restriction. In the former case, of course, the public would have the remedy in their hands at the next election. Once a reporter ceases to be a mere outsider, he feels his hands tied. He may be a friend, a partisan, an official, or an accomplice but he cannot rank as an impartial recorder of what takes place There is a manner in which reports can be hocussed" by leaving out certain passages which is move deceptive than the combined pens of Gulliver and of Munchausen, We do not, of course, in any way, refer to a temporary and legitimiiate secrecy—as, for 0 instance, when a public body decides as to what price shall be offered for certain property, or what steps are advisable in a law action which is pending The amount of light which this case has shed on Corporation methods may serve a good purpose. To allow the same man to be time-keeper, and pay-master; and to have the right of employing and dismissing the men was unbusiness-likc in the extreme. The absence of any check whatever implies a commendable faith in human nature but under such a system a perfectly honest man may be unjustly suspected, and a dishonest man has a free nand. The Corporation itself has not emerged from the enquiry with an enhanced reputation for the methodical way in which it carries on the public business and spends the money of the itcpayers

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