Council to offer £250,000 payoff to controversial chief executive

David Clark is to be offered £250,000. Click on image to enlarge.
David Clark is to be offered £250,000. Click on image to enlarge.


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.


Add Your Comment
  • Garry Leask

    • February 19th, 2010 19:21

    Total disgrace to pay £250,000 to Mr Clark, and expect parents to pay for instrument tuition.
    Get rid of Mr Clark as cheaply as possible. The SIC should learn by their mistakes and employ a Shetlander for the job. Stop employing poeope from the south when there are plenty of good Shetlanders who can do the job in question.

  • Auld Rasmie

    • February 19th, 2010 20:13

    Absolute disgrace.
    I’m ashamed to have been born in Shetland.
    I was planning a return visit this year, but I think that like a lot of exiles I’ll just bugger off to somewhere that the Shetland name isn’t known.

    Da Auld Een

  • Joan Bailey

    • February 19th, 2010 22:37

    I cannot believe that the SIC are going to pay that amount of money to someone that has disgraced Shetland, he has made the council into a laughing stock and should be leaving Shetland with nothing but his tail between his legs.

    I am proud to say I’m a Shetlander and this man should be booted oot da sooth mooth as fast as possible. He has only thought of himself and how he can line his pockets and those of his friends, it seems that Shetland did not mean anything to him, he should be ashamed of himself.

    If the council pay him this money there will be a public outcry, this amount of money is more than some people earn in 15 years. I think it is disgusting has the SIC got no backbone?

  • Darren Johnson

    • February 19th, 2010 22:59

    Completely outragous.

    Can’t begin to say how angry I am at the prospect of £250,000 of mine and others’ council tax money being squandered in this fashion.

    Its time for a complete clear oot at the Toon Haa

  • Roger T

    • February 19th, 2010 23:07

    Not a great surprise from this shambolic council. Absolute disgrace. Those who decided this payment should hang their heads in shame and emigrate.

  • Kathy Greaves

    • February 19th, 2010 23:20

    Totally unbelievable. What are our councillors thinking of! Outrageous and scandalous is what it is.

    If Mr Clark’s contention is that he “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”, then this can easily be discounted. Just check media reports, and comments from the council at the time of his appointment. All glowing reports, and glad to have a person of his calibre, his background. It was he himself who destroyed the image. By his own actions.

    Public perception is that he won the position of chief executive partly because of his father’s position and reputation – Ian Clark was not a Shetlander and no-one thought that Dave Clark was a Shetlander either although he did attend school here: which discounts the racism claim as obviously the position was offered regardless of his background, which the public, and those who selected him, knew of.

    Bullied? When he sallied up to me at the market cross on the 19th December last, when I held my personal protest at our council’s actions over the Judane affair, he was the bully. In an almost confrontational manner he asked of me “what’s your problem?” Actually I would call it an “in your face” attitude. He did not seem to me to be the kind of person who would be bullied by anyone, in fact I would say that he was the bullying kind.

    Harrassed? Perhaps not. When it was becoming clear that his reported actions were becoming embarrassing and not acceptable for a person in his position representing Shetland, and Shetlanders, globally, it was inevitable that there was to be a public outcry. Criticism increased when Mr Clark’s actions became even more held to ridicule – see comments about his trip on the Bresssay ferry, for example as well as living his controversial private life in publc. Which led to notorious newspaper articles.

    Pay him £250,000 in compensation! More like fine him a few millions for the harm he has caused to these islands, to our reputation, to compensation to the hurt he has done us. But it seems that the die is cast, the council have done the deal in private. And it must not be called a golden handshake. More like blackmail.

    Where are our/Shetland’s rights in this matter? Where is our support, our/Shetland’s councillors, where is our legal representation?

    If this is the way things are to go, I give up now.

    One more protest. I will be at the market cross at 12 noon on Monday 22nd February, before the deadline for our council to decide upon the “compensation” for Mr Clark. I look to the 1,300 people who signed the petition last week, and others, to join me. Davey Thomason where are you now?

    I hope too that those affected by the news that the funding for music lessons is to be cut – about £130,000 – will also join this protest against the council’s actions. It defies reason.

    See you there.

    This is still supposed to be a democracy.

    Sadly yours

    Kathy Greaves

  • Davie Henderson

    • February 19th, 2010 23:38

    This council should hang its head in shame. I am appalled and disgusted to hear that this person has been offered £250,000. The arrogance of the man to put in a claim for £1.7 m because he thinks he was bullied and accuses Shetlanders of racism because he wasn’t a Shetlander beggars belief. I am not interested in whatever excuse you (the council) come up with as a reason to pay this arrogant nonentity anything. The man is a disgrace to himself and to Shetland. Any “normal” working person doing what that man has done would probably have been sacked with no compensation. He should be told to get his backside “oot da Sooth Mooth” and he should take every man and woman of this present council with him.

  • D. Lennon

    • February 20th, 2010 0:25

    I hope this brings the entire Council to its shambolic knees. I say get rid of the lot of them and start afresh. Most of these suited psychos are only in there to further there own ends, (not to mention friends and family). Personally I would have sacked him (Clark) for gross misconduct, and if he fancied being dragged through court to screw his bosses for huge sums of clearly undeserved recompense, bring it on.

  • Remy 1100

    • February 20th, 2010 2:08

    Nothing new here, just the way all these councils and large companies operate in this day and age. Shetlanders should really be asking the council legal boss why they set up these contracts with people in high positions of power. Just why is it nessesary to have contracts requiring massive payouts to sack useless people? Oh I forgot, you have to do that to attract the right sort of person, really worked in this case, NOT. The chief executive should be a person who is passionate about Shetland and her people (you can only get that commitment from a local), a decent salary should come second. What is so hard about appointing a local Shetlander on a common law contract without a payout clause other than normal redundancy?

  • Rachel

    • February 20th, 2010 7:19

    This is disgusting! The man should get nothing!

  • Amy

    • February 20th, 2010 10:02

    I think every one of our councillors who have agreed to this should be removed from the council. Not one of them deserve to be there and are continually bringing Shetland into disrepute! I am disgusted with the figure suggested as a payoff for making our Island a laughing stock.

  • don

    • February 20th, 2010 10:28

    Total nonsense, as said above why pay this fool £250,000 and make often struggling parents pay for music lessons in schools!! SIC get a grip.

  • Matthew Lawrence

    • February 20th, 2010 11:09

    If this group of democratically elected councillors can’t do the job properly then who can? Every time I open the ST on Friday there is some fresh matter which justifies disbelief. I used to be very politically committed and was very active in the past living under the administration of a Tory council which was terrible. This ongoing saga just reinforces my suspicions that many people put into such a position of power just cannot handle their responsibilities and when they get into such a mess they try to pay their way out. This is no way to handle taxpayers money especially when they are going to claw it off parents in this new musical tuition stealth tax and give it away to someone who as far as I can see has made no real contribution to the governing of this current council. Let’s make Shetland a co-operative council!

  • John Rollo

    • February 20th, 2010 12:06

    Once more our our convener leads Shetland through another financial crisis, where the ratepayer picks up the tab and he trundles on to the next. I hope the same team will not be allowed to interview our next leader of finances. Perhaps the convener should say enough is enough and hand over the reins to someone who can show they lead from the front.
    Serious decisions have to be made shortly, considering the whole future of Shetland, which will take strong resolve and strength to carry out. All existiing councilors will have to ask themselves “am I up for it?” If not move on. Too many ask what politics can do for them, instead of what they can do for politcs and their and our islands.

  • John

    • February 20th, 2010 12:39

    It’s time for a change of more than just the chief exec if the council think it is acceptable to pay Clark £250k to go away. It is time for a fresh council and a stronger legal team at the council. Any other normal employee would not receive a payout for being sacked would they?

    I know there will be some councilors objecting to this payout and I ask those to make a stand and stop this now. If Clark wants a payout let him take us to court.

    Finally I’m a sooth moother but I’m here because I love Shetland and its people so he can’t call me racist, I just don’t like money grabbing bullies.

    John C

    P.S. See you Monday at the Market Cross Kathy

  • ali inkster

    • February 20th, 2010 14:16

    It seems our council’s legal team advised them to offer a payout to Clark. This will be the same legal team that advised us to let his girlfriend off with £400 grand of money due to us.
    Not only should the council resign on mass but the legal team should too.
    No more council tax will be paid by me until all of the £650 grand has been recovered from Clark and Miller.

  • G B Donald

    • February 20th, 2010 15:36

    Not a real surprise and I would say that the council are getting off lightly with £250 000. If you look at this from the outside no-one is looking particularly good.
    Also it is always necessary for a quote from Dr Wills to be in these articles, he’s not the convener yet!!!
    Hopefully now the council can get on with the serious issues such as AHS, windfarms, Whalsay link and just in case they’d forgotten the tightening budgets they will have to play with.
    Get on with it and stop embarrassing the islands.

  • Billy Fox, Quarff

    • February 20th, 2010 15:56

    It would appear a dismissal could have been effected in September 2009 when the phone call to Councillor Wills occurred.

    Instead some councillors and officials closed ranks to save face on their dubious candidate selection. It now transpires that at least one senior council official was witness to Mr Clark rehearsing his phone call to Councillor Wills, in fact the word going around is that there may have been two officials who heard it!

    Despite the police investigation this was never disclosed, until now, when it is stated one senior official is prepared to testify to the event. By this failure to declare what was witnessed the council has been dragged through the mud for the last 5 months, inflicting untold damage on Shetland’s reputation. If in fact such a failure to declare this evidence is not actually a criminal offence in the face of a police investigation, then at the very least anyone failing to come forward as such a witness should be asked to resign, along with anyone else who may have been party to it.

  • Margaret Goodlad

    • February 20th, 2010 16:05

    This has made me so mad. When the council is threatening to charge £160 a year for teaching the bairns music. Had my calculator out. What he is to get is enough to teach 1,562.5 bairns music for a year. The council is spending money willy nilly (a monstrosity in the Central Mainland (you know what I mean), a tunnel for Whalsay etc. etc.) and making the most nonsensical cuts. Where are they going to take that £250k from? (Is David Clark going to pay off some of Judane debt?) We the population of Shetland need to make a stand with the council. If every household stopped paying their council tax for a few months that would let them see we mean business.

  • Colin Hunter

    • February 20th, 2010 19:14

    This is an absolute disgrace! Even worse than the Nick Reiter debacle. That cost these isles £100,000 plus in “compensation” all those years ago. Why do this council insist on parachuting some unknown quantity into their top jobs when there are people of proven ability already here? What would be so wrong with giving the job to a local person, someone who cares passionately about Shetland and not just lining their pockets at our expense? Too simple isn’t it? And our esteemed leaders in the Town Hall never go for the simple option, do they? My advice, for what it’s worth, is GET A GRIP! If you have any bottle get rid of him and any cronies he may have, and while you’re about it, you might come to some decision about the new High School and SOME kind of new link to Bressay and Whalsay. DISGUSTED!

  • chris hodge

    • February 20th, 2010 20:08


  • john g

    • February 20th, 2010 20:28

    I agree with John C, the councillors should for once do the right thing and if it means going to court and losing £1m the people of Shetland would think a lot more of them.

  • L Farmer

    • February 20th, 2010 20:30

    I can’t believe what I’ve read … “a senior official is now ready to testify” … where have they been? Why come forward now, why didn’t they come forward before, with very obviously, extremely important information to the investigations at the time? Withholding such important information, even if not asked, must be at the very least morally wrong, when considering the events and effects on all concerned i.e. individuals, council, not forgetting Shetland’s reputation.

    This eleventh hour announcement is simply too late. They must explain, and account for, this incredible perceived lack of judgment on their part … perhaps they have good reason, but I can’t think what. Surely their intention wasn’t to make others suffer.

    I would expect at very least the police must be wondering … why come forward now !

  • Sandy McMillan

    • February 20th, 2010 23:10

    David Clark’s desk should have been cleared months ago. Drinking alcohol while at work is a sackable offence. And threatning another member of staff is also a sackable offence. So why is David Clark still on the island, get him on the nort boat before he does any more damage to the fine reputation Shetland has. And put the convener and the legal dept on the same boat.

    Sandy McMillan

  • Joan Bailey

    • February 21st, 2010 19:19

    Kathy Greaves, if I was in Shetland I would be at the Market Cross with you tomorrow, come on all you Shetlanders support Kathy against this spineless payout from the council.

    Good luck to you I hope you have lots of supporters with you.

  • Ian Jamieson

    • February 21st, 2010 19:25

    I find it very hard to believe our council have agreed to pay compensation of £250,000 to Mr clark. During his short period as C.E. he has committed several offences which should have resulted in his immediate dismissal. Instead our elected representatives have decided to hand him £250,000 to sweeten his departure. Where has their credibility and backbone gone?

  • Vadil

    • February 21st, 2010 20:27

    Think it is about time all our councillors and officials read and inwardly digest the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling. If they did so, there might be hope of redemption for those who can understand it, sadly I’m afraid probably not many of them. Otherwise to quote another sage “out dull spot, begone”.

  • Leslie Newlands

    • February 21st, 2010 20:42

    Get Dave Clark on the boat south from where he came with no pay out. It’s a bloody disgrace the way things are being handled by the council. It’s strange that people are coming forward as witnesses now after Mr Wills name has been dragged through the mud and almost accused of being a liar. Perhaps these witness should get the chop along with Dave Clark.
    What about Dave Clark’s contract – did it not have a probationary period? And after a certain period based on performance or LACK of he could be dismissed without any settlement. Come on councillors – we the PUBLIC NEED ANSWERS.

    Leslie Newlands

  • bertie

    • February 22nd, 2010 7:19

    As a blown away Shelty, who still has the island at heart, I am totally ashamed that the council is considering a payout to a man who was drinking at work, a sackable offence in anybody’s book. And threatening a fellow council member beggars belief, this man should be shown the way to da nort boat and made to pay his own fare.

  • Ertie Herculson

    • February 22nd, 2010 11:41

    I have to laugh at the people saying that “there are plenty of good Shetlanders who can do the job in question”. Good Shetlanders like former Chief Executive Morgan Goodlad, maybe? Now, how many millions was it again that he lost through the ill-advised investment in the Smyril Line? But of course he was “wan o’ wis” so never mind, eh?

  • Mr Monkey

    • February 22nd, 2010 12:26

    In response to Garry Leask.

    Stop employing PEOPLE from the south when there are plenty of good Shetlanders who can do the job in question.

    I had the fortune of meeting several of your councilors whilst visiting, and neither could organise one in a brewery.

    £250.000 is nothing, compared to the amount S.I.C has thrown away on pointless projects.

    And finally Shetland is still part of the U.K, other islands accept incomers, why cant you???, there are plenty of good folk from the mainland du kens
    GROW UP, all the other island have, you aint the centre of the universe

  • Margaret

    • February 22nd, 2010 16:53

    All councillors should resign. They are all involved in this fiasco and they should take their share of the blame. Their judgement cannot be trusted as it was them and their top officials who appointed this man to the post of Chief Executive. The public has no confidence in their decision making as it has been flawed in the past. Examples being the non-decision making over the new Anderson High, the Bressay bridge/tunnel disaster, now the Whalsay bridge/tunnel debate. Can someone in this council please make one sensible decision instead of wasting copious amounts of public money and achieving NOTHING! RESIGN


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