Action Expected To-day Pitcher, Who Holds Post, Incumbent Since 1913; Belonged to Both Parties
ALBANY, April 14.--An investigation by a legislative committee of the office of the State Architect, of which Lewis F. Pilcher, of Brooklyn, is the head, was asked for in a resolution introduced in the Senate to-night by Senator James Towner, of Dutchess County.
The resolution charges that contracts for public buildings have been let at excessive prices, and that many of the buildings have been built in violation of law.
Mr. Pilcher, who was appointed by Governor Sulzer in 1913 after the Tammany machine refused to confirm two other men that Sulzer wanted appointed, has been under fire before. The last time was when President F. H. La Guardia of the New York City Board of Aldermen made charges against him.
For one year after his appointment Mr. Pilcher was enrolled as a Democrat. He worked for the election of Governor Glynn, Democratic candidate against Charles S. Whitman. After Mr. Whitman's election it was given out by Mr. Pilcher's friends that he had become a Republican. He was reappointed by Governor Whitman. Then, when his term expired last year, he was reappointed by Governor Smith, a
Democrat. The term is for five years at $10,000 a year.
Mr. Pilcher has powerful friends in both parties. Last summer there was talk of investigating his relations with the New York City contracts, but the proposed investigation never got beyond the stage of discussion. His predecessor was removed after an investigation conducted by Governor Sulzer.
The resolution will not be acted on until to-morrow. The resolution reads:
"Whereas, It is alleged and generally believed that many contracts for the erection of public buildings, designed by the state architect have been erected in behalf of the state in violation of the statutes in relation thereto, and,
"Whereas, Those contracts so illegaily made may cause large losses to the state, and,
"Whereas, It is generally believed that some of these contracts so illegaily executed have been awarded at sums largely in excess of the reasonable cost of the construction of the buildings provided for in such contracts, and,
"Whereas, The interests of the state should be protected by the securing and preserving the facts and evidence in relation to the execution and validity of the contracts so alleged to have been unlawfully made in behalf of the state, and also the reasonable value of the work already performed thereunder so that the state may be enabled properly to resist and defend claims which may hereafter be made against the state on account of said contracts or for the value of the work done and materials furnished by reason thereof;
"Resolved (if the Senate concur), That a joint committee of the Senate and Assembiy be hereby created, consisting of four members of the Senate, to be appointed by the President of the Senate, and five members of the Assembly; to be appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, whose duty it shall be to investigate the affairs of the state architect's office, and particularly the letting and execution of contracts for the construction of public buildings of the state.
"Resolved, That such committee report to the Legislature of 1922 on or before February 1,"
April 17, 1921, New York Tribune, Page 9, Inquiry Into State Building Contracts Is Voted by Senate
Adopts Resolution to Check Up Alleged Irregularities Despite Opposition of Tammany, Led by Walker.
From a Staff Correspondent
ALBANY, April 16.--The Senate to-day adopted the Towner resolution providing for an investigation of the letting of contracts on public buildings by the State Architect's Department, of which Louis F. Pilcher, of Brooklyn, is the head. Mr. Pilcher was originally appointed at the instance of John H. McCooey, the leader of Tammany's Kings County annex.
Senator James J. Walker, leader of the Tammany minority, fought the adoption of the resolution, and declared that if there was any wrongdoing it should be investigated by Governor Miller under the Moreland act and by the Legislature.
In this he was supported by the chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Charles J. Hewitt.
This brought Senator James E. Towner, Republican, the introducer of the resolution, to his feet protesting.
"I charge," said Senator Towner, "that a contract was entered into by the State Architect's office in the Middletown State Hospital for $80,000, without public letting, in violation of law, and that contracts for the prison at Wingdale and on other state buildings have been over-certified."
Senator Alvah Burlingame, spokesman for Jacob Livingston in the upper house rushed to the rescue by demanding a slow roll call. and the resolution was finally adopted by a vote of 28 to 14.
When Senator Towner's name was called he amplified his charges, saying:
"My charges are based on records which I obtained in the Attorney General's office, and which are to be had in a case where the state sets up a defense when sued on an illegal contract. Contracts at Wingdale and Sing Sing, have been over-certified. That is not all. I gave those facts to the chairman of the Finance Committee. He didn't see fit to examine these figures. I asked him if he had shown them to the majority leader. He said he had not. Then I took the matter up with Senator Lusk, who told me to introduce a resolution, which I have done."
This bought Senator Hewitt to his feet in protest.
"The statement of Senator Towner," he said, "is partly correct. He said there were things in the State Architect's department. I was busy and didn't have time to examine them. I told him I would tell the Governor when the Legislature adjourned. He said that Mr. Henderson, of the Attorney General's office, knew about it."
"The statement just made by Senator Hewitt is not true," Senator Tower responded. "I did tell him I had the figures and got them from the Attorney General's office. My statement was not only partially correct, but entirely correct."