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Ward lawyer quit over lack of openness

A senior lawyer and leading light on the Nolan committee on standards in public+ life resigned from the Association of Colleges because of its board's lack of+ openness, it was revealed this week.News of the resignation of John Hall, a + senior partner with Eversheds - the biggest law firm advising British colleges + - comes as the AOC board inquires into the conduct of its chief executive, + Roger Ward.Sources close to Eversheds within the AOC and its predecessor, the + Colleges Employers Forum, told The TES that Mr Hall had for some time been + dissatisfied with the lack of information given to him as company secretary. He+ is understood to have been particularly concerned with "serious shortcomings" + in the AOC and CEF registers of interests. The sources said he had also + expressed concern about the AOC's endorsement of outside companies.Mr Hall + refused to comment on the detailed reasons for his resignation from the AOC in + April. But he told The TES: "Prior to my resignation, I had twice requested a + meeting with the chair of the board in writing to discuss my concerns. I had no+ response."The revelations that Mr Hall was deeply discontented with the way + things were run at the AOC and its predecessor for months before his departure + will inevitably lead to calls for the inquiry to be widened.Earlier this month,+ The TES revealed that Mr Ward had a #163;650-a-month consultancy agreement + with the pensions and healthcare group Burke Ford Reed. He had also supplied + the group with a list of colleges in CEF membership. The AOC-instituted inquiry+ into Mr Ward is being carried out by the solicitors McKeag and Co, based in + Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne. The lecturers' union NATFHE have called for a + bigger inquiry by the new Nolan committee.Mr Hall commented: "We [Eversheds] + should be pleased to co-operate with any inquiry that may take place." An + Eversheds spokesperson added that the main concern was the reputation of the + company.Howard Phelps, chairman of the AOC, declined to comment on the Mr + Hall's resignation. "My solicitors have advised me that I should say nothing + about the affairs relating to Mr Ward, " he said.

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