Wishart has no case to answer on conflict claim, says Standards Commission
The Standards Commission has ruled that SIC member and Viking Energy project co-ordinator Allan Wishart has no case to answer over a complaint alleging that he had breached the councillors’ code of conduct.
Mr Wishart resigned from his role as a trustee of Shetland Charitable Trust and relinquished his position as chairman of the council’s infrastructure committee when he took on the role with Viking Energy last August.
But a complaint earlier this year suggested he faced a conflict of interest as a councillor, a charge which the Standards Commission – in a letter to Mr Wishart last week – has now ruled does not merit further investigation.
Mr Wishart told The Shetland Times he felt there was no conflict because he did not sit on the planning board and, in any case, the final decision on the contentious windfarm project will be taken by Scottish government ministers.
At the time of taking on the Viking Energy role Mr Wishart said he had given serious consideration to resigning as a councillor for the Lerwick North ward, but decided to continue as a backbencher because he wanted to represent people who voted for him on a raft of non-windfarm issues including housing, education, roads and transport.
Seven complaints against SIC members since the last set of council elections in May 2007 have reached the stage of a formal inquiry by chief investigating officer Stuart Allan.
Last month Addie Doull and Jim Budge were censured – the lightest punishment the commission can mete out – over their failure to declare a small financial interest in the Shetland Livestock Marketing Group when they pushed for it to receive a council grant in early 2009.
A raft of complaints were made to the Standards Commission during the bitter political fallout between councillors and officials during former chief executive David Clark’s time in office. Three of those – against Caroline Miller, Gary Robinson and Jonathan Wills – did proceed to full investigations by the commission but each member was cleared of wrongdoing.
In 2008, five councillors – Mr Doull, Gussie Angus, convener Sandy Cluness, vice-convener Josie Simpson and Iris Hawkins – were cleared over a complaint relating to Shetland Development Trust investments in SSG Seafoods.
In March that year, Alastair Cooper, Mr Doull, Mrs Hawkins, Rick Nickerson, Mrs Miller and Mr Angus were cleared following a complaint alleging that their dual memberships of the SIC and various community councils in the isles created a potential conflict of interest.
Shortly after the last election, all 22 councillors were the subject of a single complaint alleging that they had breached the code of conduct by meeting in secret to discuss the SIC’s response to a report from the public services ombudsman relating to an investigation into former chief executive Morgan Goodlad. Again investigating officer Stuart Allan ruled there had been no breach of the code.
Three years ago, Mr Cluness was censured for failing to register payments he received from Smyril Line and a local fisheries training trust – a complaint dating back to the previous council’s term of office.
The Standards Commission said it was not able to provide details of the total number of complaints it has received and dismissed without the need for an investigation, but it is known that separate complaints against convener Sandy Cluness and councillor Caroline Miller have been dismissed in recent months.