An inquest next week into the mysterious death of the sacked executive director of Mensa will intensify a bitter power struggle in the society for people with high IQs.
The Independent has obtained a copy of an internal Mensa report which questions the organisation's decision to dismiss Harold Gale, who became deeply depressed and died after crashing his car in February.
The inquest follows the recent decision by Sir Clive Sinclair to step down as Mensa's chairman after 15 years.
The move has prompted a dirty battle to succeed him, with photographs of one male Mensa official wearing women's underwear being circulated ahead of next month's election.
Mr Gale was sacked after 19 years with Mensa over allegations that he ran a private business from the society's offices. An industrial tribunal last year was told that Mr Gale had kept the Mensa board in the dark over his activities, selling puzzles and a magazine called Mind Games.
But a report, written by British Mensa director Brian Ford, details minutes from Mensa committee meetings which show that senior officials were aware of Mr Gale's business activities for more than a decade before he was dismissed.
The report concludes: "It must be said that the documentation cited above, and the course of subsequent events, do not appear to support [the board's] claims. It now seems these matters were well-known to the chairman, the treasurer and the secretary for years. No action was taken."
Mr Ford, a scientist based in Cambridgeshire who is no longer a director but remains a Mensa member, said he had been asked to investigate after repeated innuendo from Mensa members - known to the board as "the irritant tendency" - about irregularities in the way the society was run.
As Mr Ford began probing the society's financial affairs, a decision was taken to launch what has become known as "the dawn raid", when three senior Mensa officers arrived at the society's headquarters in Wolverhampton on 6 February 1995, suspended Mr Gale and another member of staff and changed the locks to the offices.
In May last year, Mr Gale took Mensa to an industrial tribunal in Birmingham. Although it ruled that he had been unfairly dismissed by his employer, Mensa Administration Ltd, he was not awarded compensation because it was decided that he had abused the organisation's trust.
But the Ford report, completed a month after Mr Gale's suspension, cites minutes from various meetings of the British Mensa committee, which clearly mention Mr Gale's business activities.
At a meeting on 28 April 1984, Mensa director David Schulman pointed out that: "The pounds 6,000 per annum from the publication Mind Games was at present going to Mensa Administration Ltd.
"He felt that the proceeds should go directly to British Mensa Ltd. He also stated that it was a good publication and carried the Mensa name well."
Mr Ford said: "The officers insisted that Harold Gale's extra-mural activities were a revelation. The company minutes suggest otherwise."
Mr Ford is now standing in the election for a new chairman, seconded by the television presenter Carol Vorderman.
She said: "I thought Harold was a very nice man and when I was on the committee it was general knowledge that he was writing these Mensa puzzle magazines."
Sir Clive denied that the board had known the full extent of Mr Gale's activities. "We reached an agreement that it was fine as long as it was done in his spare time. We discovered that an awful lot of business was done in the office's time," he said.
He said he had proposed that Mr Gale should resign and take a consultancy with Mensa but that Mr Ford said that it was a trick and had talked him out of it.
"Things would have turned out very, very different. I feel very, very bitter," said Sir Clive.
After Mr Gale was sacked at the age of 54, friends said he became a broken man, finding it difficult to find employment and slipping into financial difficulties.
Then on 23 February he died after crashing his car. An inquest into the death will take place next week in Telford, Shropshire.
Two days after the inquest, to which some Mensa members are expected to be called to give evidence, Mensa will hold its first charity ball. Guests - described as "a heady mix of high IQ and high society" - will gather at St Ermin's hotel in Westminster for a champagne reception, dinner and cabaret.
Sir Clive, who will retain membership of the society, said he hoped the election would inject new vigour into the society. "I have been chairman for something like 15 years now and I just think it's long enough. It needs new blood."
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