24th February 2018
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Council reported to financial watchdog over Shannon affair

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The council has been reported to Scotland’s financial watchdog following the attempt by chief executive David Clark to “delete” the post of his assistant chief executive Willie Shannon, The Shetland Times can reveal.

It is understood the move has been made by the isles’ two parliamentarians, MSP Tavish Scott and MP Alistair Carmichael, who have already made public their displeasure at the way Mr Shannon has been treated by Mr Clark and the council’s head of legal services, Jan Riise.

Last month they wrote to council convener Sandy Cluness asking for an external review to be carried out into the affair, saying they were “extremely concerned” by the potential damage to the reputation of both the council and Shetland as a whole. That request was rejected by the convener.

Mr Carmichael said on Tuesday afternoon that he had no comment to make on the matter at this stage. However, it is understood that he and Mr Scott wrote last week to auditor general for Scotland Robert Black urging a thorough investigation into the conduct, procedures and costs of action being taken by Mr Clark in relation to Mr Shannon.

They are believed to say in the letter that they have had sight of employment law advice received by Mr Shannon which suggests that he has a case for constructive dismissal and a financial claim against the SIC which they judge would run to six figures.

An Audit Scotland spokeswoman confirmed that it had received correspondence expressing concern about the council’s “conduct and procedures”.

She said: “Following our usual procedures we have passed it to the local auditors for Shetland Islands Council and they are considering it as part of the ongoing audit of the council. If there is anything significant, it will be flagged up and will go through our usual processes that way.”

On Wednesday councillors will discuss in private a report from Mr Clark on restructuring his executive team, which he views as essential to revitalising the SIC’s flagging capital programme.

Several members have voiced disquiet about what has happened to Mr Shannon, who has been off work since returning from holiday in late August, and that is likely to form a substantial part of their discussion.

Speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Clark said it was part of an “extended consultation” on the matter: “It is a genuine attempt to allow people who felt that maybe they hadn’t had the input – that starts with the elected members and then moves forward with others. There has been some concern that they didn’t have the opportunity to contribute and I would like to hear their views.”

Deputy chief executive Hazel Sutherland – who has been handling the matter of Mr Shannon’s position – said: “We’re working together to reach a solution to suit both parties.”

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