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COSLA to headhunt new SIC chief

SHETLAND Islands Council is to ask local authority umbrella group COSLA to headhunt a shortlist of potential chief executives to serve until November 2012.

The council has been without a head of its paid service since last month when the previous incumbent David Clark was paid off after less than nine months in post amidst considerable controversy.

Yesterday (Wednesday) councillors appointed a six strong selection panel to interview potential candidates, who would then meet the full council before being accepted.

Councillor Jonathan Wills won the full backing of his colleagues when he proposed that COSLA look for candidates who had experience as a local authority chief executive, had achieved a best value report from Audit Scotland, had experience of working in an independent council and an affinity or knowledge of islands.

He compromised on his initial proposal that the full council carry out the interviews.

Dr Wills said that it was “hardly appropriate” for council members or officials to be involved in the search for candidates while Audit Scotland was actively investigating the recruitment and departure of the former chief executive.

Six councillors were appointed to work with convener Sandy Cluness to interview any candidates that COSLA put forward. The panel will include Robert Henderson, Florence Grains, Cecil Smith, Bill Manson, Allan Wishart and Gary Robinson.

Mr Wishart said a smaller interview panel would find it easier to establish a rapport with the candidate and ask searching questions without being diverted.

The new chief executive will be employed on an interim basis until six months after the next election.

Two names which have already been mentioned as potential candidates are former Aberdeenshire Council chief executive Alan Campbell, and Arthur McCourt, who ran Highland Council for 12 years.