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Dave Clark’s lawyers discuss his future

Dave Clark’s lawyers discuss his future

Pete Bevington

1 February, 2010

SHETLAND Islands Council’s controversial chief executive is considering his future with the authority after just eight months at the helm.

Dave Clark’s lawyers have approached the council to discuss “recent events”, which have seen him hit the local and national headlines.

In a statement the council said the 44 year old had been granted leave “whilst these issues are being resolved”. Councillors will be discussing the matter on Thursday after a meeting of the services committee at Lerwick Town Hall.

Mr Clark joined the authority on 1 June, just 12 days after being appointed. It was his first appointment as a public sector employee, having previously worked as a consultant.

He was following in the footsteps of his father who was the SIC’s first chief executive in the 1970s and is credited with negotiating the lucrative deal with the oil industry.

Mr Clark first hit the local headlines three months after he started work when he “deleted” the post of his assistant chief executive Willie Shannon without proper consultation, sparking a fury amongst unions and some councillors.

His profile spread further when the national press reported that councillor Jonathan Wills had gone to the police about alleged threats Mr Clark had made during a phone call on 9 September.

An internal investigation found no proof to substantiate councillor Wills’ claim, however further complaints came in about a drinking session in Mr Clark’s office at the top of Lerwick Town Hall on 3 September.

Mr Clark claimed he had been on holiday when he had a celebratory glass of champagne with Andrew Laidler, a consultant he had employed to review plans for a £49 million secondary school in Lerwick.

More questions were asked about the way the contract was awarded to Mr Laidler, who was a former associate of Mr Clark’s when he ran his own consultancy business from his home in Motherwell.

Meanwhile concern was building up about Mr Clark’s background and claims he made when he applied for the post. In December six of Shetland’s 22 councillors submitted a complaint about his performance, which remains unaddressed.

As relations between Mr Clark and some councillors broke down, the local government watchdog Audit Scotland commented on “high profile relationship issues” which might “adversely impact” on the council’s performance.

On 10 December the Accounts Commission announced they were sending the Controller of Audit Caroline Gardner to Shetland to investigate what was going on. She is expected to arrive within the month.

Council convener Sandy Cluness also invited the local authority umbrella group COSLA and their Improvement Service to help the SIC address the issues that had been building up over the previous three months.

Public opinion of the council in Shetland had already sunk to an all time low, but it got even worse when the Scottish Sun published stories about Mr Clark’s private life on 23 January.

Three days later the chief executive featured prominently on the satirical “bill” for this year’s fire festival Up Helly Aa, on 26 January.

Three days later Mr Clark went on holiday and deputy chief executive Hazel Sutherland took charge of council affairs, issuing a notice for staff to go home because of the bad weather

Mr Clark and Mr Cluness refused to comment on that matter.