High-ranking state officials associated with the office of Gov. Paul Cellucci put heavy pressure on members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in an unabashed attempt to win votes in favor of the Meetinghouse Golf Club project in Edgartown, the Gazette has learned.

The commission rejected the golf club project by a one-vote margin three months ago.

A longtime member of the commission who has been a governor’s appointed member for 20 years admitted this week that she was pressured by a high-ranking state official to vote in favor of the Meetinghouse Golf project.

“There was pressure on me to support the Meetinghouse Golf Course project — there is no question about that,” Marie Allen told the Gazette this week. Miss Allen has served on the commission since she was appointed by Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1979.

Miss Allen resigned from the commission just after she voted against the golf club project. She said her resignation was unrelated to the golf course vote.

It was also revealed through news accounts this week that there is an indirect link between the Meetinghouse Golf Club and the Massport booze cruise scandal now unfolding around Governor Cellucci.

Alexander (Sandy) Tennant, a lobbyist who was a key figure in the scandal that resulted in the resignation of Massport director Peter Blute last week, worked for Meetinghouse Golf, among others. A news story in the Boston Herald last Friday ran a list of Mr. Tennant’s top clients. Titled “Tennant’s Fleet,” the list included Meetinghouse Golf of Natick, with the notation that Mr. Tennant was hired to lobby “state environmental protection officials.”

Mr. Tennant is reportedly under investigation by the Massachusetts Secretary of State for alleged irregularities in financial reporting.

The developers for the Meetinghouse Golf project are Rosario and Barry Lattuca, a father and son team from Natick, and Richard Friedman, a Boston real estate developer who owns a seasonal home on the Oyster Pond in Edgartown. President Clinton and his family are spending their summer vacation in Mr. Friedman’s home this week.

The Meetinghouse Golf Club had announced plans to file a new golf course plan this week. The project is planned for some 200 acres of land owned by the MacKenty and Bigelow families on the Edgartown Great Pond.

Miss Allen told the Gazette this week that a short time before the MVC was scheduled to vote on the golf course project in May, she received repeated telephone calls urging her to vote in favor of the project. She would not identify the person who called her, but she did say: “He has a high position in the state — he does not work in the governor’s office, but he said every time he called that he was calling on behalf of someone in the governor’s office.”

Miss Allen said she resigned because she had recently retired and changed her permanent residence to the Vineyard, and no longer qualified to be a governor’s appointed member of the commission. “It’s in the bylaws and I knew that,” she said.

Although she knew about her impending eligibility issue, Miss Allen also said she received a telephone call just after the golf course vote informing her that she was not eligible to serve on the commission. “I was told that it was all over,” she said.

Other commission officials said they believe Miss Allen’s resignation was linked to the pressure over the golf course vote.

“I would prefer to call it a forced resignation,” said MVC executive director Charles Clifford yesterday.

“She resigned under pressure,” declared Anne Gallagher, who is also a longtime governor’s appointed member of the commission. Mrs. Gallagher made the remark during a brief discussion about Miss Allen’s resignation at the regular meeting of the commission last week.

Yesterday, Mrs. Gallagher confirmed that she too had been pressured to vote in favor of the golf course project by a person claiming to represent Governor Cellucci. Mrs. Gallagher said a message was left on her answering machine. “It said, ‘The governor is hoping you will support the Meetinghouse Project,’ ” Mrs. Gallagher told the Gazette.

Mrs. Gallagher said she did not return the phone call. She also voted against the golf course project.

Mrs. Gallagher said the telephone calls were curious, since the votes by the governor’s appointed members on the commission do not count in the official tally.

“We can sway votes, however, because we participate actively in the discussion,” she said.

Mrs. Gallagher said after what happened to Miss Allen, she was half expecting to get a similar telephone call asking for her to step down. “I keep waiting for someone to call me and demand my resignation,” she said.

The confirmed news of pressure by state officials on members of the commission directly contradicts remarks made by Governor Cellucci during a visit to the Vineyard early this summer. The governor was interviewed by the Gazette during his Island tour. During the interview Mr. Cellucci denied that anyone from his office had pressured members of the commission for favorable votes on the golf course project. “Not from my office — I don’t believe in that, it is up to the local officials to make their own decisions,” Mr. Cellucci told the Gazette.

Miss Allen said it is possible the governor did not know about the telephone calls.

“There definitely was pressure, there were people in high places in the state who were interested in seeing this proposal approved. Whether or not Cellucci knew what was going on around him is a different question. He may not have known about it,” Miss Allen said.

There was plenty evidence last week and this week that Governor Cellucci may have been unaware of other events going on around him, given the escalating scandal involving Massport and other state officials. Massport director Peter Blute resigned abruptly last week after the news surfaced of his presence on a Massport-funded booze cruise with state officials and several young women. The scandal erupted after the Herald photographed the event and a young woman on board the cruise bared her chest for the newspaper photographer. Mr. Tennant, the Meetinghouse Golf lobbyist, was also on board the cruise, according to news accounts in the Herald.

Mr. Clifford said this week he was saddened to learn of the heavy pressure on members of the commission from state officials, which he said has never happened in the 25-year history of the regional land use commission. “I don’t ever remember it being a practice,” Mr. Clifford said. He also had strong words of praise for Miss Allen and her dedication as a member of the commission. “She is one of the most straightforward people I have ever met — and she is also the most untouchable when it comes to this kind of a thing,” he said.

Miss Allen said simply that she voted her conscience on the golf course project.

“I attended all the hearings and I visited the site twice. I listened carefully and I made my decision based on my own conscience and the way I felt,” she said. “I’d vote the same way again and again and again. There is nothing that has happened since then that would make me change my mind.”