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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

The Alleged Money Transactions

The Alleged Money Transactions.

As to the "certain monetary transactions" in which Murphy is concerned This you will recollect was the third ground of this enquiry, but which was to be dealt with separately, and accordingly I review it. I think it right to remind you that as these alleged money transactions were talked about publicly by Mr. Malfroy as clear cases against Murphy, and as his honesty was thus seriously impugned by their being included as an element of enquiry, he and I, on his behalf, were naturally anxious to know what were the transactions, the amounts, dates, with whom they took place, and so forth. Accordingly, I made repeated applications to you verbally, in writing and once by telegram during adjournment in the enquiry, from the 9th to the 19th April, also to the Surveyor-General. The reply was in all cases that I, or Murphy, would receive due page 32 notice of particulars. At the resumption of the enquiry I applied again, but you were still unable to furnish me with particulars, Doubtless, not being assisted by an accountant or an officer who understood either Mr. Blythe's accounts, or the position of his finance, yon may not have felt yourself able to positively formulate a charge, still there were alleged to be certain discrepancies or matters giving rise to certain surmises of culpability. What these discrepancies, etc. were, so far as they were supposed to affect Murphy, should have been, in a formal enquiry like this, made known to him, as he was from the terms of your own memo, under accusations to these alleged monetary transactions—but I was greatly surprised when yon announced to me, that you would not allow rue, on behalf of Murphy, to cross-examine the witnesses, but that any questions I wished to ask must be put through yourself, it course which always more or less subjecting one's questions to a process of revision, becomes an impediment to the free and full test of the veracity of a witness. You also announced that the witnesses would not be required to sign their statements, nor would they be required to make a statutory declaration as in the previous portion of the enquiry. If there was any part of the enquiry about which witnesses should be required and bound to exercise the utmost care, it surely was when they were adduced to speak to matters involving a Public Servant's character for honesty. Why the witnesses should not have been put on their statutory declaration in this as in the other, I cannot, from a fair enquiry point of view, understand. It is no answer to say this was simply a departmental enquiry or a "preliminary" enquiry, because whatever it was it is clear that the first stage of investigation, being the basis of accusation, should as a matter of course be most carefully tested and ascertained. On account of this prohibition against my full and free interference for the protection of Murphy, I was again tempted to retire with him from this part of the enquiry, as we could not, except under this restraint, confront his accusers, but Murphy, I must say, felt keenly the iniquity of this accusation of what was alleged to be levying blackmail on the road-men, and urged me to remain which I did. Then again, you did not think it necessary to have full notes taken, which seemed to me to fall with special harshness on Murphy in his defence. Now as to the evidence. There were seven witnesses, who apparently the Department entertained the belief would prove something against Murphy. But what is the fact? That out of the seven, five gave the strongest testimony in support of Murphy, strict honesty in paying the men. The other two, who alone made allegations adversely to Murphy, were, as before, the two Maoris—Pararaki, whose name has been connected with the nickname "Tommy "the Liar," and Arama Karaka who, as already mentioned, is Mr Dansey's brother in-law, and whose evidence was on the former enquiry shown to be utterly untrustworthy. You will also remember that this latter witness came forward at your general invitation to any of the road-men present to give evidence. It is remarkable that in both portions of the enquiry Maoris alone are or have been page 33 prompted to be Murphy's accusers, and that they have in most cases their special motive for speaking with hostility against him. I have already adverted to the motives of both these Maoris just named. But there is an additional reason for Pararaki's enmity, viz., that Murphy (as you will see by the correspondence herein between Murphy and Mr. Malfroy), as the best judge, being Overseer, certified that Pararaki was only entitled to receive pay for two days' work, whereas he was paid for five days, However, to proceed, Pararaki's story with regard to his wages is this: "That a reduction was made by Murphy in his (Pararaki's) pay of December, 1891." You will remember he states, "that he 'knocked off' work "on the 23rd December, 1891"; but he then goes on to say, "My money, six shillings, for December 24th was stopped because I did not work that day," Consequently he was not deprived of anything that he was entitled to. He received all he was entitled to, for he says "I got £6 in December. . . . I only worked twenty days in December" "—so £6 (being 20 days at 6/-) was all he could get; yet he goes on to say that he saw the cheque for £6 6s. "Murphy changed it; I only got £6." Then he says, "I receipted "voucher for £6 12s., and only received £6. I don't remember "what month it was, but Murphy told me to give six shillings to "Mrs. Blythe. I did so. I suppose it was to be returned to the "Government, but it was a deduction for having been absent from "work one day. I received the cheque and then paid the money "back—never to Mr. Blythe, but always to 'Mrs.' Blythe or "Murphy." In reply to your question why he should pay the money back, on what account, or for what reason, he said, "I paid" the money back, but don't know the reason. It never exceeded "six shillings in a month," Yet he just said above he receipted a voucher for £6 12s. and only received £6, Now was ever such "a rotten yarn" spun by anyone except by a person who deserved Pararaki's nickname? It was because I felt that this young Maori would lie in this as in the previous part of the enquiry, that I considered he should have been required to make a statutory declaration, so that he might be prosecuted for giving false evidence. But you demurred to this course, and none of the witnesses in these alleged money matters were allowed even to sign their statements. You stated this was only a preliminary enquiry, leaving the Department to do what it liked afterwards. But as I at once remarked to you, the Department through you had stated this was to be a part of the enquiry, and in justice to Murphy's character and honesty the investigation ought to be formal and thorough. You, however, declined to treat it as such. But Pararaki's statement is so wholly absurd and improbable, in the face of it, that it hardly requires even a denial. Is it likely, in the first place, that Pararaki would get a cheque for one day's pay more than he was entitled to? or is it likely that Murphy would go through the ridiculous formality of cashing a cheque for £6 6s., and hand it all to this Maori, and then get back 6s., and hand this sum to Mrs. Blythe, so that it might be returned to the public account without any reason, as page 34 Pararaki says? The thing is nonsense; it is worse, it is a wilful falsehood. I think it deplorable that a story of this kind was thought worth writing down. The facts are as explained by Murphy (though his whole explanation was not taken down, because, despite my remonstrance, you said you did not think it necessary to put it all down) that he (Murphy) did not pay Pararaki at all in either November or December, 1891. He was paid by Mr. Blythe himself. Murphy never saw his cheque, never cashed it, never had any transaction at all with him in December about his pay. Fararaki can give no date or month, and though he says these deductions happened several times, yet it is strange that throughout them all, as he says in his evidence in reply to my question put through you, "I never complained to Mr. Blythe that I had to return any money."

Arama Karaka, who came forward at your general invitation to any road-men in the audience, related a similar "make-up" to Pararaki's, viz., "that in November (t what year) I lost one day "(didn't work), and 6s. was deducted in consequence, I gave the "money back to Murphy, and once I saw him give it to Mrs. "Blythe." He couldn't give any reason why it was done. Here, again, as in Pararaki's case, the story is a manifest untruth, But it is shocking that it should be listened to, much less seriously taken down. As Murphy says he never at any time got a refund from any road-man—and this is substantiated by all the other witnesses who gave evidence in this matter, and who were called by the Department.

Mr. Barrett, a Government road-man, gays: "I was never, of "course, paid for time I didn't work. Murphy always paid me," In reply to me, through you, he said: "I always got all the money I was "entitled to."

Mr. Ryan, another Government road, man, says: "I am only paid" for the work I do, I was always paid by cheque, I cashed them myself sometimes at Oxford, sometimes in Rotorua, I always got "the money I was entitled to."

Timotuha, another former Government road-man, says; "I was "paid my wages by cheque. Griffiths cashed them. No deductions "were ever made from ray wages by Murphy. I was paid in full "for all I worked. Murphy paid me. I never made Murphy a "refund."

Tiki, another Government road-man, states: "Every day I "worked I was paid for. I was paid by Murphy, and sometimes "by Blythe, I was paid in December last by Blythe, I got £6 6s, "viz., a cheque for £$ 15s, and 11s cash (which subsequently "explained a discrepancy between cheque-book and pay-sheet). I "never gave any refunds to either Murphy or Mr. Blythe."

John O'Brien, another road-man, says: "I received £5 8s for "December in money. Murphy paid me in Mr. Blythe's presence. I "did not work on December 24th, and therefore 6s was deducted, ". . . I never refunded any money to Murphy, nor did he ever "ask me for any."

page 35

Is it not very significant, I repeat, that if these alleged deductions were made by Murphy, they should take place only in the cases of Pararaki and Arama Karata, whilst all the other men testify to the correctness with which they were Always paid, and practically contradict and refute the charge of any "refund" to Murphy. Now, nothing could be clearer than Murphy's explanation of his action in relation to the wages pay-sheets, He told you that he had instructions from Mr. Blythe to get nearly always before the end (and Bometimes in the middle) of each month, the pay-sheets, signed by the road-men, which, of course, could only then be done in blank, as their true time could be only made up at the end of the month, I put in evidence copies of telegrams and memos, to prove these instructions; and Murphy said that, w hit fit in the Public Works Department he similarly, under instructions, got the paysheets signed in blank to prevent delay, or for other Departmental reason unexplained to him. You, yourself, I understood, admitted there was nothing unusual in the practice. At the close of each month Murphy invariably handed to Mr. Blythe, on a sheet of foolscap, the exact time of every man who had worked, and according to which Mr. Blythe might issue payment. Murphy never saw the pay-sheets after they were signed by the men as described, nor did he see the time-sheets he supplied. These time-sheets were similar in form to that supplied Mr. Malfroy after Mr. Blythe's death (and produced in Court), showing the accurate and careful method adopted by Murphy. If, as you said, "none of these time-sheets were now forthcoming," it is no fault of Murphy. It was declared both by Murphy and Mrs. Blythe, in reply to your questions, that he had not access to, nor did he use Mr. Blythe's office (which was attached to his residence) unless Mr. Blythe was there. Murphy, therefore, would have no opportunity, nor would he have any interest in destroying his own time-sheets, Mr. Blythe had, I understand, large sums under his absolute disposition in Imprest Accounts and different "Road" accounts, and signed the cheques, so that Murphy had no interest in or control of or need whatever for the time-sheets once they left his possession. And here, as yon seemed to cast some reflection on Murphy for destroying his own private memos., etc., from which he prepared the time-sheets, may state, as he said himself, There was no destruction of "evidence, nor any intention of doing so; but as I was dispensed 4i with from the public service, and I was perhaps removing from the "district, there was no use taking papers, etc., that were mere "lumber." And this, as I pointed out to you, was another mistake of the Department, as it seems to me. Murphy should have been merely suspended, and requested to keep all documents, private or otherwise, in connection with his office, pending inquiry; but apparently too great anxiety was entertained to get rid of him without knowing, or caring to know, the real facts, and without being able to make any charge against him. But regarding the paysheets, as Murphy stated in his evidence, the figures are not his in any pay-sheet in which there may be any discrepancies between page 36 what is there put down and the actual payments to the road-men; but that he would "stand or fall by any pay-sheet the figures of "which showing time and money have been filled up in his hand "writing." To illustrate this, take the payment of £5 8s (above mentioned) to O'Brien for December. This represents eighteen days at 6s. Murphy says—and he is supported by O'Brien—that eighteen days constituted his correct time; yet he may appear in the paysheet for December as entitled to 21 days at 6s., or £6 6s, It is clear the difference did not go into Murphy's pocket, because, says O'Brien, "Murphy paid me in Mr. Blythe's presence." Murphy further detailed the actual money he received from Mr. Blythe for this purpose, viz., a £5 note and a half sovereign, which he changed, giving 8s. to O'Brien and returning the 2s. to Mr. Blythe, It is fortunate this very .instance in O'Brien's case forms such positive proof against this mere surmise of dishonesty on Murphy s part, And so it will be found in every case of apparent discrepancies between pay-sheets and cheque-books, etc. There can be no implication of Murphy whatever, and there never was any foundation for seven suspecting him. Murphy is very much to be sympathised with in this matter, because, as I heard in Rotorua, Mr. Malfroy; who had access to Mr. Blythe's account books, etc., had publicly and freely spoken of these alleged money matters, and that "there were five clear cases against Murphy." This was told to me by a member of the Legislative Council and another gentleman, who were in Rotorua at the time. I say this is very reprehensible conduct on Mr. Malfroy's part to thus injure an honest man's character on such a slender basis. It is just another strong indication of the design by the little and would-be all-powerful official coterie, in Rotorua, to "work" Murphy's removal. It is plain, for we have Mr. Dansey who holds the offices of Postmaster, Telegraphist, Clerk of Court, Interpreter, Government Insurance Agent, a Justice of the peace by virtue of being Postmaster, and I know not what else—we have him taking, as Clerk and Justice of the Peace, the four natives' declarations and "recommending Murphy's conduct in this sad affair to be brought under "the notice of the Surveyor-General;" then we have Mr. Malfroy, another Government official, and the Chairman of the Town Board, sending a rash and hasty telegram to the Surveyor-General, implicating Mrs. Blythe and probably Murphy, and also subsequently making public "talk" of Murphy in connection with Government money matters, and finally we have Dr. Ginders, the Medical Superintendent of the Sanatorium, coming up as a witness to give evidence (such as it was) against Murphy, etc, I need not pursue this phase of the matter further than to say, that, whatever else these facts may import relative to the administration and' progress of the locality, they conclusively warrant my firm opinion expressed in the beginning of my review of this case, concerning the combination of attack on Murphy, But regarding these "money transactions," I submit that you must have been satisfied very shortly after the investigation started that there page 37 was absolutely nothing in them, so far as Murphy was concerned, and much trouble, needless imputation, or surmise and annoyance, would have been obviated if Mr. Blythe's accounts had been previously submitted to a thorough supervision, and also searching audit. It is unnecessary for me to direct your attention to the state of Mr. Blythe's accounts. I produced to you a letter addressed by the Surveyor-General to myself (about Mr. Blythe's salary, still unpaid to his widow), in which he regretted to state that there were "irregularities," etc., in Mr. Blythe's accounts; and unless these accounts were searchingly gone into it was unfair in the extreme to attach the irregularities of a deceased officer to Murphy, whose integrity had never been challenged before, and who has held the public confidence, not only as a Government servant, but also in the elective offices of member of Licensing Bench and School Committee, Te Aroha, and of Waiorongomai School Committee, of which he was chairman; and also a member of the Piako County Council by permission of the Government, whilst he was overseer, It might well be asked if this is a man likely to deduct the sum of 6s from Pararaki or Arama Karaka, and put it in his own pocket.

I am sorry to have had to trespass on your attention at such length, but I felt that the forces of intrigue, untruth, and false impression were directed so strongly against Murphy's character and honesty, which are a working-man's "all," that it became my duty to treat his case exhaustively, and prove—as I confidently submit I have proved—that all the allegations against him have absolutely fallen to the ground, and that in dispensing with his services under the circumstances, and in the manner it was done, an error and an injustice were committed, which his restoration to the public service alone can help to rectify.

J. A. Tole.