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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 Pounds 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.

FE Focus, page 27

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