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Reid's departure should end unhappy period

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Letters

Your report was justifiably sceptical about the presidential ambitions of Dr Alex Reid, the RIBA's fo rm e r director general, following his early removal from the post (Astragal, AJ 6.7.00), but there was also, to the kindly observer, a touch of pathos in the uncritical and self-justificatory interview with him which appeared elsewhere, linked to an at times heroic disregard for reality. He will certainly contribute further to the gaiety of the nation if he stands for the presidency.

Dr Reid proposed various combinations of departments in 1994, with existing senior staff suggested as their heads: for example, communications (abolished a year or so previously by his predecessor) and the library.All were turned down by the RIBA Council except, with some reluctance, education and practice. I was very loath to take charge of this combined area: I was more than fully loaded in my existing role at education, I had no prior experience of practice, both areas were starved of resources, I doubted the logic of the arrangement and knew the depth of opposition to it, and that there had been no continuity planning in the face of several senior staff retiring.

All those above me in the hierarchy, including elected members, were well aware of these facts.

I took the combined job out of goodwill towards a new director general and the council, and loyalty to the institute. I also had confidence in my own ability to cope over a fair period of time, having experienced many fraught situations in my past career. I clearly remember the last of the several conversations in which the director general sought to persuade me to take the role, when in his temporary office he patted my knee, expressed confidence in my abilities and looked forward to a closer relationship - all very chummy, you might say.As indeed was the president, Frank Duffy, with whom I had worked closely as vice-president, education, who urged me to take the role to support him and his protege, Dr Reid.

During the weeks when I took office officially, met the practice committee and its various groups, etc, it was apparent that the situation was far worse than I expected.Apart from the lack of continuity planning for staffing, it was clear that there was no tactical or strategic vision of the future of the practice area or how it might mesh with education. Considerable internal disputation was occurring about proposed severe reductions in the committee structure on which members' attention was focused. Staffing resources were soon reduced by retirement and redundancy to one junior administrative assistant, added to after some months by one further post to which recruitment was not completed until summer 1995.

Shortly after that, following less than a year of dealing with this situation created by others, I was indeed sacked at less than two weeks' notice as being 'not the right man' for the job - of director, education and practice standards. Some job, some standards, you might think! The council seemed of this persuasion, since, a few months later, prompted by a special general meeting, it once more separated the education and practice departments. So wrong job rather than wrong man, perhaps.

The whole episode is one illustration of an unhappy period of years for the RIBA that should be put firmly in the past, not allowed to resonate into the future.

Peter Gibbs-Kennet, Bisley, Gloucestershire

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