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Headaches worsen at ARB


The arb was set to court fresh controversy this week by deciding to go ahead with a hotly contested Professional Conduct Committee case - despite its board remaining inquorate after the high-profile resignations last week (aj 14.10.99). Three names among those who quit - Amanda Levete, Marco Goldschmied and Frank Duffy - appear on a list of 17 standing for election to the board. However, the aj has learned that an attempt by the rebels to persuade high-profile 'names' to stand and help wrestle control of the board from the current incumbents has failed. And architect mp Sydney Chapman has warned that the government might even step in to wind the arb up if things don't improve.

The conduct case, set to be held yesterday, is against Ingrid Mary Morris of Bone and Morris Architects in Hammersmith, who is accused of unacceptable professional conduct. She is accused on four counts - knowingly submitting false plans to the local authority, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; overcertifying to contractors; overcharging fees; and having a conflict of interest in recommending structural engineers Trigram Partnership. Morris said she was accused of having a 'personal/sexual' relationship, denying the charge and adding that there was no financial interest.

Morris launched an attack against the board's behaviour in the case, which dates back to 1989, when work started for client Lynda Partridge. 'It doesn't seem to me as if they're a particularly competent bunch,' she said. 'They don't seem to be able to run their own affairs fairly and have failed to follow their own rules.' Morris alleges that the arb failed to notify her of a preliminary investigation - as it is obliged to do - and she consequently made a complaint. Morris, a sole practitioner, also complained that she has been 'severely prejudiced' by the fact that she scrubbed computer files on the project after more than six years and has to rely on her 'weak memory.' Morris' solicitor was charged £600 for photocopies of papers relating to the case.

The arb said the Architects Act 1997 proved that the pcc acts independently of the board, and that any challenge on whether or not it now has powers to come to a verdict would have no strength. Its decisions, which can extend to striking architects off the register, need not be board-ratified, and the arb was insistent that its 'day-to- day' functions are unaffected. Only board decisions - such as hiring a new chief executive - cannot be made while it is inquorate.

The board's under-fire vice chair Owen Luder was set to be the architect member involved for this case, along with lay member Michael Rose and one other appointed by the Law Society.

Luder is also one of the 17 standing for election, but realises he may not succeed. Sam Webb, another candidate highly critical of the arb's 'nightmare' 'unprofessional' and 'dire' current situation said: 'That's a distinct possibility - I think they all ought to have resigned anyway.'

The full list, chasing seven places, is: Jonathan Ball, Victor Basil, Ian Davidson, Joyce Deans, Francis Duffy, Michael Foster, Marco Goldschmied, Peter Jacob, Lester Korzilius, Amanda Levete, Owen Luder, Larry Rolland, Yasmin Shariff, Roger Shrimplin, Susan Ware, Sam Webb and John Wright. But it is understood that the game-plan of the quartet which resigned was to contact 'high-profile' architects to join them in standing in a bid to oust certain current members. This succeeded with Goldschmied, Levete, Duffy and Davidson, but Stansfield Smith and Rick Mather's name was also mentioned. Ballot papers on the nominees now go to all architects, and those picked to serve from April for three years will be announced in mid-March. But the arb admitted it has not yet contacted architects to fill the gap until April and make it quorate.

Jonathan Ball called the arb a 'communications disaster area', suggesting it needed to behave more like the dvlc in Swansea. And Amanda Levete, who resigned over 'underlying' problems, said that the board 'needs a shake-up' and a 'change of attitude'.

Sydney Chapman mp echoed the view: 'Four distinguished architect members resigning is not good news for the reputation of our profession,' he said. 'If the arb suddenly doesn't work and becomes paralysed, then the government could intervene, even if that means winding it up or coming up with a different version.' Chapman said the treatment of Francis Golding, the arb's preferred candidate for chief executive, was 'inexcusable'. The job may now even have to be readvertised.

A spokeswoman for the arb's sponsor department, the detr, said the issue of the management of the board was 'for the board as an independent body' but that if it requested help, detr would be 'happy to provide assistance.'

David Taylor

RIBA director general Alex Reid throws in the towel

Alex Reid is to step down as director general of the riba, as exclusively revealed in last week's Astragal (AJ 13.1.00). He will leave in the summer, six months ahead of the expiry of his seven-year contract in January 2001. But Reid, 59, denies any ill-feeling between himself and riba president Marco Goldschmied. 'It's nothing to do with personalities at all,' he said. 'We are getting along well.'

Reid said he was leaving early because it is a suitable time in the presidential cycle, and is not applying for renewal of his contract because 'five to seven years is long enough for an individual or the institute.'

He has never spent more than three to five years in one job, and is 'reflecting' on the future. This could mean a return to practice, or going back to the telecoms and computing industry, where he spent most of his career.

Reid's main achievements, he believes, have been 'that the membership has steadily risen, the building is far more lively and interesting, and the use of the Internet and electronic methods is ahead of any institute.'

The riba is to advertise shortly for a new principal executive officer (the dg's official title). Possible contenders include the arb's rejected candidate Francis Golding and architectural project consultant Rory Coonan. Glasgow 1999 supremo Deyan Sudjic said he was not applying and AJ publishing director Paul Finch, who was runner-up to Reid six years ago, said, 'I have not even thought about it.'

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