Wills accuses complainers of acting without council’s authority
Jonathan Wills has accused the five people who referred him to the Standards Commission for an alleged breach of the councillors’ Code of Conduct of spending more than £3,000 of public money on preparing the complaint without the authority of the council.
Dr Wills spoke out prior to his appearance before two members of the commission in Lerwick on Wednesday morning.
The 90-minute hearing took place almost five months after the complaint was made by council convener Sandy Cluness, vice-convener Josie Simpson, former chief executive David Clark, deputy chief executive Hazel Sutherland and head of legal Jan Riise.
They reported Dr Wills to the commission after he refused to accept the outcome of an investigation, led by an expert from Cosla, into his claims that Mr Clark threatened him with violence in a telephone call on 9th September last year.
Mr Clark returned to work after councillors decided there was insufficient evidence for any action to be taken against him. Dr Wills then repeated his allegations, attacked Mr Clark as a “bully” and condemned the process as an abuse of his human rights. Mr Clark left the council last month with a payoff of £250,000. It is understood Dr Wills accepted that he was guilty of breaching the code but argued that there were massively extenuating circumstances.
In a statement issued prior to Wednesday’s proceedings, Dr Wills said: “The complainers have falsely represented themselves as acting on behalf of the council. In fact, as the convener admitted on 9th December last and again on 17th February, they did not have the authority of the council. They therefore acted in their private capacities. In doing so they spent over £3,000 of public money on outside lawyers to prepare the complaint, in addition to using council facilities and staff time to process it, issue a press release and send a bulletin to all staff.
“Of course, anyone can make a complaint to the Standards Commission. That is as it should be. But to use council resources for it they need the council’s authority. Because the ‘Dave Clark Five’ did not have this they should now repay the money out of their own pockets, whatever the outcome of the investigation. I will be taking this matter up with Audit Scotland in due course.
“I am also asking the Standards Commission to investigate the conduct of the convener and vice-convener with regard to several related matters.”
He said that by law council monitoring officers who suspect a breach of the Code of Conduct should prepare a report for the council and circulate it to all members, something that was not done in this instance.
Dr Wills said the commission’s interview process was confidential and he would respect that, but he had already waived his own right to confidentiality as he had “nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of”.
“I therefore now repeat that I acted in the public interest last October 14th when I revealed the failure of a council disciplinary hearing to follow due process, to cross-examine witnesses, to hear and test all relevant evidence and to allow me legal assistance or the right to sum up. This was in breach of the Human Rights Act and amounted to a secret trial under arbitrary procedures, where the victim became the accused.
“A further breach occurred when the council leadership deliberately misrepresented the hearing’s finding of ‘insufficient evidence’ as if it were an acquittal.
“In addition to the public interest I also acted in self-defence. I was left with no alternative after a witness used the qualified privilege of the hearing to make, in front of five of my colleagues and several council staff, the grossly defamatory allegation that I had ‘peddled falsehoods’ in my profession as an author.”
This is a reference to claims made by Mr Clark that in his book about Shetland and oil, A Place in the Sun, Dr Wills had published false accusations against his father Ian Clark, the SIC chief executive who secured the isles’ oil funds.