The war of words in the RIBA's presidential election campaign hotted up at the final council meeting of the year last week when candidate Paul Hyett branded opponent Brian Godfrey 'a mythical figure' and issued a thinly veiled attack on Alex Reid's time as director general at Portland Place.
Hyett claimed that recent independent reports into the institute's financial management during Reid's tenure as director general constituted 'a criticism of the previous administration'. Current chief executive Richard Hastilow confirmed that the report by Andersen Consulting, which has not been published, suggested 'inefficiencies' in the way that finances were managed under Reid and said that changes are now being made to the institute's financial reporting.
Hyett's move was seen by many as an attempt to inflame opposition to Reid, which is based on his time as director general and was given its strongest voice yet when current president Marco Goldschmied claimed that Reid had 'treated members as fools, particularly in financial matters'.
Reid responded to Hyett's suggestion, saying:
'The last five years were a model of tight housekeeping and good financial management.'
Hyett's jibe at Godfrey appeared to be aimed at his failure to attend the session as well as an earlier presidential debate. But, speaking later from his Devon office, Godfrey hit back: 'I'll be becoming more public later in the campaign. I'm going to bide my time and I'm not going to be rattled.'
Meanwhile, democracy campaigners scored a major victory at the RIBA when the profession's ruling body threw out proposals to strip the membership of its right to vote for the president.
Every council member, with the exception of three abstentions, voted in favour of keeping the free vote. The proposed alternative was a president elected by the council alone.
Student leader Nick Hayhurst said: 'The RIBA needs to be accountable and embrace the membership. It cannot and should not be a closed institution.'
'To keep the election this way sends out a message of inclusion, ' said vice president of communications Annette Fisher.
But the debate was not completely one-sided, and John Wright, long-time campaigner for election by council, argued his point vociferously before abandoning his position and voting for a membership-wide election.
Wright had argued that the high cost of running a national election campaign, thought to be about £10,000 per candidate, rules out too many potential runners.He also said that there would be greater continuity between presidents if council chose them.