Finance Committee begins investigation into police & fire alarm telegraph, EC&M mentioned


Publication: Daily Evening Bulletin

San Francisco, CA, United States
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The Finance Committee Begins and Inquiry Into the Management of the Fire Alarm and Police Telegraph.

At 2 o'clock this afternoon the Finance Committee begin an investigation into the charges preferred three weeks ago to the Board of Supervisors by D.W. White, a tax-payer, against M. Greenwood, Superintendent of the Fire-Alarm and Police Telegraph. Mr. Greenwood was present, and Mr. Sims, Chairman of the Fire Alarm Committee.

Mr. White was called in and sworn. He said that he did not personally know very much about the truth of the charges, but he would produce witnesses who could testify of their own knowledge concerning them. In regard to the first charge that Mr. Greenwood sent Henry Morton, one of the repairers of the Fire Alarm Telegraph to inspect and repair the Western Union Company's line from Petaluma to Trinidad, on which errand Morton was absent eleven days, receiving his salary from the city during that time; he only knew that the line belonged to the Western Union Telegraph Company, and he believed that Morton acted under the direction of Geo. T Ladd, manager of the Electrical Construction and Maintenance Company. In regard to the charge that because of one of the registers being our of order, a wrong alarm was given for a fire that occurred on the night of December 1st, last, on the corner of Post and Mason streets, whereby an unnecessary loss of $6,180 was entailed upon the insurance companies, the witnesses only knew there was considerable delay in the engines reaching the fire. He heard afterward that it was because one of the registers was out of order, and an alarm was sounded from the wrong box. In regard to the third charge, that Mr. Greenwood neglected his duty by not attending to the broken lines, he could only speak from here say.

Thomas M. McLeod, formerly an operator fo the Fire Alarm Telegraph, testified that he was employed by the city from January 1871, to February, 1875. Mr. Ebbets questioned the witness at length in regard to the performance of his duty, and whether he had always performed it properly—Questions which had no apparent connection with the charges against Mr. Greenwood.

In regard to the Henry Morton charge, the witness knew that Morton was absent from duty 11 days last August. Never knew but one man in the office except Morton to have leave of absence for a whole week, and that was in a case of accident. Thought the line from Petaluma to Trinidad belonged to the Western Union Telegraph Company. Morton told him that Ladd sent him to repair the lines. Heard Mr. Greenwood day that he was going to send Morton up to the country. Morgan told him afterward that he received $20 for his "trip up north."   He said he received it from Mr. Greenwood.

In regard to the second charge, he knew that Mr. Greenwood's attention was called to the defective condition of the register on the 28th of November. Was on duty on the night of December 1st, when the alarm came in. The register would not work to record the alarm. Mr. Greenwood afterwards alleged that the cause of the delay was that five or six alarms came in at the same time. No other register was out of order while I was in the office.

To Mr. Greenwood—That register has been in the office for about two years. It was sent away for repairs twice. I came on duty about 10 minutes to 11 o'clock on the night of the fire, Don't know it was the operators duty to test the instruments when he came on duty. Know there was an order once given to that effect. I did not test that register. The delay in the alarm was two or three minutes. It was promptly turned in, I believe. I did not take the alarm by sound, because I do not consider it safe to do so.

A discussion ensued between the witness and Mr., Greenwood as to what the register needed in the way of repairs. Mr. Greenwood admitted that his attention had been called to the fact that the instrument was not in working order.

In regard to the third charge, the witness testified that on two occasions he had to call on strangers to go after Mr. Greenwood and wake him up to tell him that lines were broken. Once called on, Mr. Harrigan, City Gardener. The line repairers were on duty at the time, but not in that part of the city. On one occasion Mr. Greenwood was at an auction. When he went away he did not know the lines were broken. It was his duty to be at the office to look out for broken lines. On another occasion Mr. Greenwood had not told me where he was going. On still another occasion I had to send for Mr. Greenwood. I never have sent any anonymous communications to the Board about these matters, nor to the newspapers.

Mr. Menzles asked Mr. Greenwood how many times Mr. McLeod was under the influence of liquor while on duty. Mr. Greenwood said that he should think he was called upon ten or fifteen times to perform duty for Mr. McLeod when he was absent without leave.

Mr. McLeod alleged that the reports of duty were never dated until long afterward.

The investigation at this point seemed to pertain rather to the question whether Mr. McLeod had been a faithful employee, then whether Mr. Greenwood is a Faithful Superintendent.

The committee was still in session when we went to press.


Keywords:Electrical Construction & Maintenance Company
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:October 9, 2009 by: Bob Berry;