22nd May 2018
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Council chief executive accepts tax-free £250,000 and leaves his post

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David Clark has accepted £250,000 tax-free. Click on image to enlarge.

David Clark has accepted £250,000 tax-free. Click on image to enlarge.

Shetland Islands Council chief executive David Clark has accepted the tax-free payoff of £250,000 offered to him by councillors and has now left his post amid a mounting public backlash against the decision.

In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, convener Sandy Cluness said the council was confident the agreement it had reached with Mr Clark, who has been in the job for less than nine months, was a “fair one for both parties”.

He rejected public demands for the council to call Mr Clark’s bluff and face him in court because that would be “extremely expensive, time-consuming and very high profile” and may have resulted in a much higher payout.

The statement said: “As part of the negotiation process, the council has considered expert evidence concerning the impact of all of this on Mr Clark’s career prospects. Taking that into account, the council is confident that the settlement it has agreed with Mr Clark is a fair one for both parties.

“Whilst there may be calls from constituents for the council and Mr Clark to litigate to resolve this, constituents should understand that that process would be extremely expensive, time-consuming and very high profile. The potential award that could be made to Mr Clark could be consideraby higher than the settlement which has been reached.”

No figure is mentioned in the statement, but The Shetland Times revealed on Friday that councillors had agreed on the advice of local government umbrella organisation Cosla to award him £250,000. The total cost to the council will be nearer £500,000 by the time tax and legal fees are taken into account.

The convener’s statement on Wednesday was immediately challenged by councillor Jonathan Wills, who repeated his call for Mr Cluness to resign. He accused the convener of ignoring more than 20 complaints made against Mr Clark in December last year by six councillors.

The dropping of those complaints were part of the deal with Mr Clark, but Dr Wills said he would not be withdrawing his complaints. It is understood that at least two of the other five councillors, Gary Robinson and Allison Duncan, will not be withdrawing theirs either.

THE CONVENER’S STATEMENT IN FULL

Following an approach by the Chief Executive’s legal team, Shetland Islands Council commissioned the Chief Executive of COSLA to explore a mutually agreeable arrangement for Mr Clark to leave its employment.

The reason for this approach was that it had become virtually impossible for Mr Clark to continue in his role because of speculation about him in the national Press last month. The Press article not only made inaccurate insinuations concerning the Chief Executive’s involvement in Council decisions regarding a private company but also included commentary on matters which had already been the subject of a complaint to the Standards Commission for Scotland by the Chief Executive and others in relation to inappropriate public criticism of the Chief Executive. The outcome of the Standards Commission process is awaited and will be determined in due course.

Certain allegations were also repeated against Mr Clark which had already been the subject of an earlier disciplinary investigation. Mr Clark was cleared of any misconduct as a result of that investigation but, despite the referral to the Standards Commission, these allegations have continued to be repeated.

As part of the negotiation process, the Council has considered expert evidence concerning the impact of all of this on Mr Clark’s career prospects. Taking that into account, the Council is confident that the settlement it has agreed with Mr Clark is a fair one for both parties. Whilst there may be calls from constituents for the Council and Mr Clark to litigate to resolve this, constituents should understand that that process would be extremely expensive, time-consuming and very high profile.  The potential award that could be made to Mr Clark could be considerably higher than the settlement which has been reached.

For these reasons, the Council, without any Counter-motion, decided, at its meeting on 19th February, that it would be in the best interests of Shetland that a line is drawn under this matter so that the Council can focus on more important issues affecting the Islands.

In all the circumstances, the Council have reached an agreed settlement with Mr Clark, whose employment will terminate by mutual agreement on 24th February 2010. The details of the settlement are confidential and no further comment will be made by either party.

And Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said: “The Shetland public deserve a full and frank explanation of exactly how the SIC has reached this decision and the cost involved. The financial hit that local taxpayers will now take is a matter of the deepest public concern and local people deserve to be told the full facts.”

Mr Cluness said the council had approached Cosla, whose chief executive Rory Mair brokered the talks, because it had become “virtually impossible” for him to continue in his role following speculation in The Sun newspaper last month.

“The press article not only made inaccurate insinuations concerning the chief executive’s involvement in council decisions regarding a private company but also included commentary on matters which had already been the subject of a complaint to the Standards Commission for Scotland by the chief executive and others in relation to inappropriate public criticism of the chief executive.” The outcome of that complaint, he said, was awaited.

“Certain allegations were also repeated against Mr Clark which had already been the subject of an earlier disciplinary investigation. Mr Clark was cleared of any misconduct as a result of that investigation but, despite the referral to the Standards Commission, these allegations have continued to be repeated.”

But in a letter to the convener, Dr Wills said: “Your statement is incorrect. Mr Clark was not ‘cleared’ of the gross misconduct charge. The hearing found there was insufficient evidence. That was because the council’s legal adviser told the hearing not to allow cross-examination of witnesses. Important evidence was thus not heard.

“You also ignore the fact that 20 complaints against Mr Clark by six councillors have still not been dealt with, 10 weeks after they were formally lodged. These complaints have not been withdrawn. You have no authority to quash them.

“You will not silence me with your impertinent demands that we draw a line under this matter. What this disgraceful affair has drawn a line under is the credibility of your convenership. You should resign, to allow this council to make a fresh start and prepare itself for the auditors’ inquiry which, hopefully, will reveal the full extent of your disastrous mismanagement of public affairs.”

Mr Cluness said details of the settlement were “confidential” and no further public comment would be made by either party.

After 120 people turned out for a march against the decision on Monday, organisers Kathy Greaves and Ian Inkster have arranged a second protest to be held at noon on Saturday.

The Shetland Times has received more correspondence on the issue than on any other for many years.

For full coverage, see this week’s edition.

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14 comments

  1. Amy

    What a disgrace. Sandy Cluness should do the decent thing and resign.

    Reply
  2. D. Lennon

    What a completely outrageous state of affairs. My mind has been boggled by this SCANDAL. But, I now feel I have had a moment of clarity. We are dealing with crooks here. Riding roughshod over employment law and keeping the paying public in the dark for starters. Everyone I’ve spoken to regarding Clarks disastrous fling with public office cannot rationalise the course of events in an orderly way, never mind the eventual outcome. I wouldn’t give these eejits a job on the essy kert. Utterly sickened.

    Reply
  3. LE HAYWARD

    I hereby apply for the vacancy of Chief Executive for S.I.C. and promise to resign in 9 months on the condition I recieve £250,000. Les.

    Reply
  4. ali inkster

    “As part of the negotiation process, the Council has considered expert evidence concerning the impact of all of this on Mr Clark’s career prospects. ”

    Any damage done to his career prospects were done by his own hand Sandy so why the hell are we paying, resign now and take Jan Riise with you.

    Reply
  5. Roddy Nicolson

    I have just read this article, and I am presently sitting at my computer shaking my head in utter disbelief.

    Reply
  6. Lindsay wiseman

    Mr Clark’s career was kicked into touch by himself but we are paying for it. Get this man back oot the sooth mooth as quick as possible. He has done nothing but brought disgrace to the islands. Don’t you think this guy knew you would not take him to court, knew who he was dealing with. Got his way and what he wanted. Another half mill blown to the wind. Shetlanders will not see a third episode of this kind.

    Reply
  7. John C

    I agree with one thing we need to draw a line under this, so ALL councilors should resign and an election be called at the earliest possible date to form a new council. All current councilors can stand for re-election if they wish and it’s up to the public us, the council’s EMPLOYERS to decide who will get a job in the new council. I as an employer of the council vote that no redundancy payments are made to any councilors not re-elected.

    This is not just about the Clark fiasco, it’s also about the total lack of decision making ability of the council i.e. the Anderson High School, Bressay bridge/tunnel/ferry? The total lack of interest in public opinion regarding Viking Energy, the lack of interest in reforming the management of the Charitable Trust etc.

    Reply
  8. Colin Hunter

    Yes! Absolutely Unbelievable! The only damage done to DC’s career prospects were by his own hand, and by throwing his (not inconsiderable) weight around like a playground bully boy. If he’d just followed his father’s example and got on with the job he would have been much better thought of. Instead of that he was like a cowboy, riding into town using his father’s reputation for a saddle. He’ll maybe get a job starring in spaghetti westerns!

    Reply
  9. Greybeard

    I am afraid that the people responsbible for this debacle, and the high cost of it, were the people who couldn’t keep their gobs shut.

    Reply
  10. Young aspiring politician

    I am in utter disbelief at the recent actions of our council who have disgraced Shetland. You were voted in, possibly at the time, for a reason. Sandy Cluness, along with Jan Riise and Hazel Sutherland should do the only honorable thing left to do, and resign. Save the pitiful remains of your dignity and leave us to rebuild our council and start afresh.
    As for the pay-out? Coming from someone who has once experienced living on benefits, I can tell you that there are people on these islands who need this money. Look at our levels of drugs abuse and mental health problems; these problems come at a high price. He is not one of those in need.
    However, i
    I am glad that Mr Wills is now, and only now, being listened to. Once seen as a controversial and overly opinionated person, I am glad he is now getting the recognition he deserves as a councillor who put his constituents first.
    And some advice. When looking for the substitute, perhaps we could first ensure that the next candidate is not greedy, unqualified and assigned the job as a “pedigree”.

    Reply
  11. D.Livingstone

    It is up to the people of Shetland to ensure that none of the current councillors are in a job come the next elections, it is the only way these crooks will be brought to heel, put them out of a job.

    Reply
  12. D. Lennon

    Further to my previous comment, “I wouldn’t give these eejits a job on the essy kert” does not detract in any way from the fine men and women who carry out the essential role and service they provide for all of us for relatively small reward. Apologies for any offence taken.

    Reply
  13. M Hopkins

    I have a flock of sheep who blindly follow their leader leaving nothing in their wake but crap – sounds a fimiliar story but with one exception, they only cost me a few pounds a week. Next election, they’re up for the job.

    Reply
  14. David

    How do I apply for the position of Chief Executive?
    I am sure that I could do the job badly too and then I would accept a mere £250,000 after 9 months to leave the post with no other comeback against me.

    Happy days for Mr Clark eh!

    Reply

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