Former colleges' chief Roger Ward ran a secret campaign to back the slate of candidates who took control of the Association of Colleges Board and went on to appoint him chief executive.
Mr Ward, then running the Colleges Employers Forum, intervened in elections for the AOC board in 1996 after the CEF merged with the old Association for Colleges - despite being banned from electioneering.
New evidence emerged this week that Mr Ward and Southgate College principal, Mike Blagden, masterminded the tactics which led to a key group of principals and college chairmen sweeping to power on the AOC board.
The TES has seen Mr Ward's handwritten draft of a letter advising candidates on gaining support. The letter was later typed up on Southgate College paper and sent to candidates under Mr Blagden's name.
Solicitor John Hall, who supervised the election, had banned Mr Ward, and his counterpart at the AfC, Ruth Gee, from taking any part in the election.
The TES asked Mr Blagden to explain, this week, why he had allowed Mr Ward to use his name and notepaper. He replied: "The draft letter, undated, in the handwriting of Roger Ward I have not seen before and was not sent out by me. A typewritten version of that draft was sent out, I understand, to five chair members of the CEF board. That letter sent on a photocopy of Southgate headed paper does not have my usual signature block and was signed 'pp' by someone with the family name of White. I can only presume this was done on Roger Ward's authority for his own reasons..."
The TES has spoken to Ms Lynn White, who worked as a receptionistswitchboard operator at the time. She said: "I remember that letter, I did it. It was dictated to me over the phone by Roger Ward. He dictated it on his mobile. I remember it vividly because I didn't like taking shorthand. I had to type it up, fax it to Mike Blagden and pp it for Mike Blagden which I did, on Southgate-headed notepaper. It was not a photocopy, I never sent out photocopies."
Mr Blagden also said that to assist members of the CEF board, and following specific requests from some of them, he wrote four letters to members, "advising on administrative matters, indicating colleges which might be approached for support and suggesting phrases for inclusion in manifestos "The letters were all dictated by me, to a PA at the CEF (Jane Woods), corrected by fax, and signed pp by her on on my behalf on Southgate College paper, which I supplied for the purpose."
Our reporter spoke to Ms Wood. She said: "Mike Blagden never dictated anything to me. Roger Ward would have done the draft. I typed it and sent it to Mike Blagden for reading through and to see if there were any changes. I would have sent out the final thing."
This week Graham Baskerville, vice-chairman of the AOC board published an open letter to Ian Nash, editor of The TES FE Focus. That letter (see page 33) and the full version of Mr Blagden's response to The TES were sent out by the AOC to the colleges.
It pointed out that Mr Ward, when departing the AOC, had made no admission of guilt and solicitors were finding it difficult to make headway. It accused The TES of "partial reporting".
The letter gives answers to detailed questions put by The TES and adds:
"Our own survey last year indicated widespread member disapproval of the narrow and partial reporting of the sector's business in the trade press. I regret that once again there is a need to put the record straight in this way. Readers will judge for themselves . . . whose interests The TES is actually now serving."
This week Geoff Lennox, of the staffing agency Education Lecturing Services, insisted that Mr Ward had not received personal payments from them. He had been paid expenses on receipt of invoicesfor work done with ELS as chief executive of AOC and previously of CEF."
Open Letter, page 33