The Grut Inquiry Part One: Town Clerk Sacked
Several councillors spoke in favour of the suspension. Cr Spooner referred back to a report he wrote on council administration and recommendations and expressed his disappointment at the town clerk’s negative response.  The town clerk’s response confirmed Spooner’s opinion that Mr Grut was incapable of improving the unsatisfactory state of affairs that had existed for some time for he basically argued to maintain the status quo. Cr Shaw cited instances where he claimed the town clerk had knowingly given incorrect information or failed to take action which ultimately resulted in costing the council money. He acknowledged that Mr Grut was a sincere man but in his view the town clerk could not manage. He pointed to £4000 being wastefully used by being lent out at a reduced rate of interest and the failure of Mr Grut to see to the transfer of a land title to the council so that the land could be used for the building of a kindergarten. It was only through the investigations of several councillors that the existence of by-law 69 was revealed, a by-law that allowed the council to clean up accumulated rubbish and remove unpleasant eyesores in the municipality. Cr John Beesley said he had voted for the suspension of the town clerk because he lacked administrative ability and imagination. He based this criticism on Grut’s handling of minutes at council meetings and his handling of by-laws, finance and business at meetings. Cr Roy Ward cited several reasons why he supported the suspension of the town clerk. These included dissatisfaction with the financial administration of the council, failure to explain why projects were not completed even when money was available, and lack of adequate supervision of projects. 
Mr Grut with Cr Roy Ward. Courtesy Leader Collection.
Other councillors rose to the defence of the town clerk. Cr Sambell reminded his colleagues that he had been in council for eighteen years and served as mayor on three separate occasions before making the observation that he had never had cause to doubt the town clerk. ‘I have never found him wanting.’ Cr McLean tabled a petition signed by 400 individuals protesting against the proposed suspension. Cr Arthur Burke said he was utterly ashamed at the action being taken against the town clerk and Cr Denyer joined him suggesting the move to suspend the town clerk was one of council’s most ridiculous actions in the five years he had been a councillor. ‘The town clerk has been in the employ of this municipality for 37 years and I think the action taken against him at the moment, in itself, is really wicked. He has been given no opportunity before council or before a full committee to answer any one of the allegations made against him. The accusations against him,’ continued Cr Denyer, ‘even if true were paltry. Any man who had served over thirty seven years he suggested would have made some mistakes.’ 
Cr Sambell. Courtesy Kingston Collection.
The Mayor, Cr Shirley Burke, in her concluding remarks said it was regrettable that a satisfactory solution could not be found and as a consequence she stressed the motion on suspension must be carried. She pointed to the instance when one of the candidates for election did not appear on the list, unreliable legal advice, inaccurate minutes and occasions where suggestions for improvement in administration were dismissed as pin-pricking. Cr Burke continued to suggest that Mr Grut was in breach of trust by revealing a copy of a confidential report to the press. (An allegation which Mr Grut quickly rose from his seat to deny).
At the conclusion of the debate the Mayor, Cr Shirley Burke, asked the town clerk if he wished to make a statement. Mr Grut declined. He informed the council that his legal advice was to say nothing at that stage. However, he made it clear that he would answer the charges in the ‘right and proper place.’ After the gallery responded with applause to this comment the mayor called for the vote on the motion that Mr Grut be suspended. The motion was carried on the basis of 5 votes to 4.
To the surprise of many Mr Grut arrived at the council chambers on the Friday following his suspension to undertake his duties as treasurer of the municipality. The fact that he had been appointed to the twin positions of town clerk and treasurer fourteen years earlier had escaped notice. Grut notified councillors that he was obliged to resume his duties as treasurer until relieved of the position. He also pointed out that as no council officer held a certificate of competency as town clerk he was available to assist where situations required it.  The mayor’s reaction to this new development which she described as “bad luck” was to seek either Mr Grut’s resignation from the position or to implement similar procedures to that undertaken in relation to the town clerk position. It was the latter course of action that was adopted. In the meantime Mr Grut who had been occupying a small room in the Weights and Measures office decided, with the mayor’s agreement, to take holidays.
At the next council meeting on May 28, 1962 Mayor, Cr Burke, proposed the removal of Mr Grut as treasurer, that an inquiry be held into such removal, and that the Minister of Local Government be asked to run the two enquires concurrently. The motions were carried five votes to four on the basis of the mayor’s casting vote as Cr Spooner was absent from the meeting. Cr Sambell saw it as a vindictive attack on Grut and challenged all councillors to resign and let the ratepayers decide who was right. This challenge was declined by the mayor who said ‘that time will come soon enough in August’.
In a letter to all councillors Mr J Grut, as was his right under the Local Government Act, applied to the council for an inquiry into his suspension as town clerk and treasurer. The Minister of Local Government, Mr M Porter, announced on June 19, 1962 that former Stipendiary Magistrate, Mr T W Hammond, would conduct the enquiry at a date to be agreed by both parties. 
The council offered the council chambers as the venue of the inquiry and this was accepted.
Graham J Whitehead
Category: Did You Know?
Reference Number: 456
Date Created: 12/04/2009
Date Revised: 17/05/2009