Wills cleared after standards complaints by convener, vice-convener and senior officials
The councillor who was referred to the Standards Commission after making outspoken criticisms of the then chief executive David Clark last October has been cleared of all 10 charges against him, The Shetland Times has learned.
Jonathan Wills was reported to the commission by Mr Clark, who left the council with a £250,000 payoff in February, depute chief executive Hazel Sutherland, head of legal Jan Riise, convener Sandy Cluness and vice-convener Josie Simpson when he repeated his claim that Mr Clark had threatened him with violence in a telephone call the previous month.
Dr Wills spoke out on the day Mr Clark was cleared by a panel of councillors of the allegation due to a lack of evidence. He also accused Mr Clark of being a bully.
The Standards Commission, which last week cleared his fellow councillor Gary Robinson of wrongdoing for raising questions about the way Judane Knitwear had repaid some of its creditors, interviewed Dr Wills in March.
The body has not yet published its report or, as it did with Mr Robinson, a truncated version. However, Dr Wills said he had been told by the commission’s chief investigating officer Stuart Allan that he has been exonerated on the grounds that he acted in the public interest. Mr Allan had emphasised that there had to be protection for councillors who spoke out and asked questions that may not always be welcome, even if they were “difficult, persistent and thrawn” individuals.
The decision will be embarrassing for Mr Cluness and Mr Simpson and the two council officials still in post.
However Dr Wills was criticised for his “extremely unwise” decision to make public a letter in which he attacked the council’s head of planning, Iain McDiarmid, over the planning application for the new Anderson High School.
Dr Wills said: “I’m glad the Ethical Standards Commission has rejected all 10 complaints against me and has found that I did not contravene the councillors’ code of [conduct] when I spoke out in the public interest over what I saw as irregularities in the conduct of council business.
“The last seven months have been stressful for me and my family, as I could have been banned from holding public office for up to five years if found guilty.
“However, upon reading the exhaustive, detailed, 37-page forensic investigation that exonerates me I can understand why it has taken so long to complete.
“I wish to thank the investigating officers for their painstaking work. I note that they dismiss all the complaints by council convener, vice-convener, former chief executive, depute chief executive and monitoring officer.
“The Ethical Standards Commission’s chief investigating officer, Mr [Stuart] Allan, does criticise me for being ‘extremely unwise’ for making public the letter I wrote about the way the planning application for the new Anderson High School was handled last year. I accept this criticism and I wish to apologise publicly to the council’s head of planning for publishing the letter. I acted in the heat of the moment and that was an error. I do not, however, withdraw a single word of what I said in that letter.”
Dr Wills said he wished to thank his family, his constituents and those elected colleagues who had supported him. He added that he intended to continue asking awkward and difficult questions.