Probe at college leads to arrest

11th March 2005 at 00:00
Police quiz director over poison-pen letters. Joe Clancy reports

The human resources director of a strife-torn college has been arrested in an inquiry launched after senior managers were plagued by anonymous "poison-pen" letters.

Kaveh Gharachorlou is under investigation by police, who have removed computers from his home and his office at Croydon college, south London.

A police spokeswoman said: "A 34-year-old man from Streatham was arrested in February in connection with an investigation into falsifying documents.

He has been bailed to return to a south London police station on April 4 pending further inquiries."

His arrest follows an investigation begun by Croydon's principal, Mariane Cavalli, into anonymous letters sent to senior managers and other staff over a two-year period. After the arrest, Ms Cavalli invited Nan Tewari, a leading human resources consultant recommended by the Association of Colleges, to conduct an inquiry into the allegations.

It was the second inquiry at the college within months. In January, the Commission for Racial Equality called on the college to hold an independent review of its race relations procedures after it received complaints from staff.

The race inquiry followed the acrimonious departure of two black vice-principals, Trevor Gordon and Conchita Henry.

The college said the two incidents are not linked, but it is believed Ms Henry was a recipient of the poison-pen letters.

A college spokesman said: "Following an initial police investigation, a manager at Croydon college was suspended.

"The circumstances of the suspension are confidential, but the college would like to emphasise that suspension is not a disciplinary sanction, and therefore does not imply guilt or blame. The college is co-operating fully with the police and, because their investigation is taking place alongside college proceedings, the college is unable to provide any further comment."

Ms Tewari said her inquiry was initially to prepare a case for a disciplinary hearing against a manager. She added: "The said person resigned and it was no longer relevant to do that."

But she has produced a report based on her findings and was due to present it to the college this week.

While Ms Tewari was interviewing staff in relation to her inquiry, staff were also being interviewed by the team conducting the race-equality inquiry.

The latter is being carried out by Chris Mullard, who is also chair of Notting Hill Carnival Ltd. His firm, Focus Consultancy, has wide experience of sensitive race-related reviews.

Lord Ouseley, a former CRE chair, is acting as adviser to the review, due to be completed at the end of March but now expected to report in mid-April. Professor Mullard said he would be looking at Ms Tewari's report in connection with his own investigation.

Mr Gharachorlou was due to be interviewed yesterday in connection with the race inquiry.

Professor Mullard added: "The director of human resources had been involved in the Conchita Henry case and was charged with implementing the equality and diversity procedures. We want to gather his views about the nature of the issues under investigation."

The college is due to be inspected next term by the Office for Standards in Education and the Adult Learning Inspectorate. It will be the first full inspection since Ms Cavalli was appointed principal four years ago.

* joe.clancy@tes.co.uk

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