Council to offer £250,000 payoff to controversial chief executive
The council is to offer £250,000 to controversial chief executive David Clark in return for his leaving the post, The Shetland Times has learned.
After almost two hours of discussion, councillors sanctioned the award, which is two-and-a-half times Mr Clark’s salary, at a special meeting held in private at the Town Hall on Friday.
The deal will now be put to Mr Clark and it is hoped that he will accept, allowing a joint statement from the council and the chief executive to be issued early next week.
It emerged on Saturday that the sum of £250,000 is before tax – estimated at more than £90,000 – and legal expenses, meaning the council’s overall bill could well be more than £350,000.
The size of the payment is bound to rankle with council tax payers in Shetland who have been outspoken about the chief executive’s behaviour.
Earlier this week councillors agreed to budget cuts and the introduction of new charges, including an annual £160 fee for children receiving musical instrument tuition, which is expected to net £130,000.
A public protest has already been arranged for noon on Monday at the Market Cross by community councillor Kathy Greaves and Ian Inkster, who was behind the recent petition against Mr Clark being given a payout.
It is understood Mr Clark had originally been seeking a £1.7 million payout on the grounds that he had been bullied, harassed and subjected to racism because he is not a Shetlander.
After Friday’s meeting, which was attended by Cosla chief executive Rory Mair, who has been closely involved in trying to broker the deal, convener Sandy Cluness said: “The council has agreed its position on the matters which were being discussed at the meeting today.
“There now has to be a discussion with the chief executive and it is hoped that a joint statement can be issued on Monday, or Tuesday, of next week.”
Mr Cluness refused to comment or take any questions from waiting journalists.
The meeting had been due to begin at noon, but was delayed following the late arrival of Mr Mair’s flight at Sumburgh Airport.
Meanwhile councillor Jonathan Wills, who is holidaying in Devon, said he had been barred from hearing the debate via a telephone link.
He said the meeting had been called with less than 24 hours’ notice. He had made a “polite request” to listen in by telephone, but was vetoed by Mr Cluness, without any reason being given.
Mr Clark had hardly had time to get his feet under his desk after he took up the role in June before he became embroiled in controversy.
He was initially seen as a suitable candidate as the SIC’s top official, not least because of his good pedigree. His father Ian was the council’s first chief executive and was credited with negotiating Shetland’s oil funds in the mid-1970s.
However, Mr Clark was only three months into the role when he was forced to take an unscheduled break over allegations he had threatened councillor Wills with violence during a phone call.
An investigation was held but Mr Clark resumed work when he was cleared, although this is disputed by Dr Wills.
Police confirmed this week they were looking again at the claims following the emergence of fresh information. The Shetland Times understands a senior official is now ready to testify that he heard Mr Clark saying earlier in the day of the phone call to Dr Wills that he intended to tell the councillor he would “kick his f`***ing teeth in” if he did not stop prying into his private life.
The chief executive had already caused a row when he “deleted” the post of his assistant chief executive, Willie Shannon, in August as part of a proposed restructuring programme for the council.
Mr Shannon was eventually invited back to his desk with a new remit to work on strategic projects.
Questions were also asked over Mr Clark’s appointment of former business associate Andrew Laidler to conduct a review of the £49 million Anderson High School project, although Mr Clark maintained he had the backing of senior councillors.
Mr Clark was also accused of drinking in his office, although he claimed to have been off duty at the time and was enjoying a celebratory drink with Mr Laidler following the completion of the high school review.
Mr Clark’s reputation was not helped by sensational coverage concerning his private life which featured in The Sun newspaper last month.