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Police reopen Dave Clark case

SHETLAND police are looking into fresh evidence they have received regarding allegations that Shetland Islands Council chief executive David Clark threatened a Lerwick councillor with violence.

Acting chief inspector of Shetland police, Ross McKillop, today (Thursday) refused to comment on the investigation into claims that Mr Clark threatened to assault councillor Jonathan Wills during a telephone conversation on 9 September.

“We are not prepared to comment on individual cases, but if we have fresh information we will look into it,” he said.

The police investigation began on 10 September but stalled due to a lack of evidence. A council investigation into Dr Wills’ allegations found insufficient proof to uphold them.

At the time Dr Wills condemned the SIC for not giving him a fair hearing, only to find his comments being made subject of a complaint to the Standards Commission signed by Mr Clark, deputy chief executive Hazel Sutherland, council convener Sandy Cluness, vice convener Josie Simpson and monitoring officer Jan Riise. This complaint has yet to be resolved.

This afternoon a petition was handed in to Lerwick Town Hall with 1,300 signatures demanding the Mr Clark’s dismissal without a golden handshake.

Tomorrow (Friday) councillors meet to discuss ways of parting company with their chief executive of just eight months.

The meeting will be attended by Rory Mair, the chief executive of local authority umbrella group COSLA, who has been leading negotiations between council lawyers Anderson Strathern and Mr Clark’s legal team from Morton Fraser.

Mr Mair attended the initial meeting on the subject held on 4 February. He will present a report to councillors, some of whom prefer the idea of sacking Mr Clark for his perceived failures in office, while others are backing internal advice to agree to a settlement that will avoid the possibility of any legal action.

Lerwick man Ian Inkster handed in the petition saying he would have preferred to have given it directly to the convener, but Mr Cluness said he felt any petition concerning an individual member of staff was “inappropriate”.

Mr Inkster said chief executive Mr Clark had brought Shetland into “disrepute” and “abused the privileges of his office” during his short reign at the town hall.

Among the woes listed in the petition are a “drinking party in his office, appointment of a close associate as an independent consultant, deletion of a senior council post without authority, consultation or compliance with council procedures, and generally his conduct in his public and private life which has caused embarrassment at a local and national level to this community.”

Mr Inkster said the response to the petition had been “excellent” with just over 1,300 signatures collected in little more than a week.

He refuted any suggestion that this was a witch hunt or vendetta, as had been suggested on a local radio discussion programme on Wednesday night.

“We feel Mr Clark has not done the job he was hired to do, and councillors didn’t bite the bullet and should have sacked him earlier.

“They had plenty of excuses to get rid of him. We feel the council should not pay any money when dismissing a member of staff who is not performing the way they expect.

“I hope we are not going to be disappointed and councillors will not ignore the petition. I also hope that the feelings expressed in this petition will have an impact on what is being discussed at Friday’s meeting.”

Mr Inkster added that “in the wider sense” the petition could be read as a vote of no confidence in councillors.

Council convener Cluness said: “I didn’t want to accept a petition that relates to staff because that is hardly appropriate. We have a policy of not accepting petitions in relation to staff.”

He added that the petition will not be an item on the agenda of today’s meeting, which will be held behind closed doors.