Councillors and officials to be interviewed this week over Clark payoff

Audit Scotland staff are in Shetland this week interviewing councillors and officials as part of their investigation into the appointment and paying off of chief executive David Clark after fewer than nine months in the job.

The financial watchdog had already announced its intention to examine relationships between councillors and officials and other issues, such as strategic leadership and the budget process, affecting the council before Mr Clark was handed £250,000 to quit last month.

The investigation was delayed to allow agreement between Mr Clark and the council to be reached. Audit Scotland, which has now widened its remit to include Mr Clark’s arrival and departure and performance management during his term, will produce a draft report for councillors by 12th April before reporting in full to the Accounts Commission in May. It has the power to censure, suspend or even expel councillors.

Meanwhile, councillors are to be asked to approve the appointment of a selection panel comprised of convener Sandy Cluness and six other members to select an interim chief executive as quickly and efficiently as possible.

No time period has been specified and councillors are also to be asked to suspend the existing pay scale, which means the chief executive receives £97,000 plus allowances, in case the interim appointee costs more. Any increase would be reported back to the council.

Local government umbrella group Cosla, which advised councillors to grant Mr Clark his substantial payout, has offered to help in the selection process.

The Audit Scotland staff, best value portfolio manager Martin Walker and audit manager Carol Hislop, were hoping to interview Mr Cluness, vice-convener Josie Simpson, Alastair Cooper, Gussie Angus, Betty Fullerton, Iris Hawkins, Allan Wishart, Florence Grains, Allison Duncan, deputy chief executive Hazel Sutherland, executive director of infrastructure Gordon Greenhill and human resources manager Denise Bell on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.


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