Charter for anarchy
The farce first became evident when the investigating officer excluded me from his interviews into the complaint against councillor Wills. Only after representation from myself did he eventually agree to meet and hear what I had to say. Despite being one of the complainers, I have yet to receive a copy of his report, so any comments I have to make are based on the summary available online. Anyone reading it would think it was I who was under investigation.
Littered with factual inaccuracies and opinion as it is, this report barely warrants comment. However, there are serious issues at stake. I choose to limit my observations to the following:
1. Investigation of cases
“The circumstances of and the content of the chief executive’s contribution to the meeting on the morning of 9th September were neither mentioned, far less explored.”
This is untrue. Mr Greenhill was asked about this meeting and gave his account. Every witness was given the opportunity to add any further evidence if they chose. Only he knows why he changed his evidence subsequently.
Mr Greenhill, on his offer, represented me at the first disciplinary hearing following councillor Wills’ complaints. It is inconceivable that he would have done so had he any concerns that I posed a threat to councillor Wills, or believed councillor Wills’ accusations.
These accusations were considered three times by the council – the committee of three, the committee of five and finally the Full Council. On all occasions councillor Wills’ peers unanimously rejected his version of events.
The police have investigated these complaints twice. I have never been charged, and the procurator fiscal has made public that there is no case to answer.
In these circumstances, the opinion of a third party, based on second hand evidence months after the events in question holds little interest for me.
2. The post of assistant chief executive
The investigating officer opines: “I did not consider that the chief executive had delegated authority to make the changes to the role or conditions of employment of the assistant chief executive.” This is in stark contrast to Audit Scotland who confirm that the council’s redeployment policy was indeed followed.
3. Drinking session in the chief executive’s office on 3rd September 2009
To avoid any confusion, I submitted my holiday request prior to taking the afternoon off.
The investigating officer “considered it to have been unwise of the chief executive to have laid himself open to the criticism of over relaxing on council premises”. Perhaps the same should apply to Up-Helly-A’ day – the last time I had a drink in the Town Hall. I was sitting two feet away from Tavish Scott MSP when I had a large Scotch poured courtesy of the convenor, at approximately 10.30am. I ensured I had approval. I wonder whether Mr Scott was on unpaid leave that day while his colleagues discussed the Alcohol Etc. (Scotland) Bill at Holyrood?
4. Pressurisation of planning staff by chief executive
In one of the most bizarre parts of the report, I am criticised for not intervening in a planning process, which has statutory independence. Perhaps this is to draw attention from the fact that the director with executive responsibility for overseeing this process was in fact Mr Greenhill.
5. The serious bit …
With this report, the Ethical Standards Commission has issued a charter for anarchy. The rules no longer apply. Every employee of Shetland Islands Council is now at risk from public ridicule, criticism and humiliation, without recourse or protection. I have serious concerns now for both the depute chief executive and the monitoring officer.
Why would the establishment encourage anarchy in Shetland? It has already made a scathing attack on the elected members and been critical of the Charitable Trust. As a lad, when bairns squabbled, they had their toys confiscated. The first SIC chief executive [Ian Clark] warned in Feb 2010: “Savage cuts on public expenditure are more than likely and the politicians at Holyrood will be less than human if they do not cast envious eyes on your funds and seek to divert them, whether directly or indirectly. You will make their task easier if they can point to maladministration within Shetland”. Collectively, Shetland’s oil funds now stand at half a billion pounds. The Scottish government is facing cuts from Westminster approaching that figure.
Let us hope farce does not descend into tragedy.
David A Clark
62 St Olaf St,