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More complaints against SIC members

THE STANDARDS Commission for Scotland is investigating three more Shetland councillors for alleged breaches of the code of conduct for elected members.

This follows five investigations into Shetland Islands Council members last year by the body that upholds ethical standards in public life.

Lerwick South councillor Jonathan Wills has raised a complaint against SIC convener Sandy Cluness and vice convener Josie Simpson for misuse of public funds, saying they had no authority to spend £3,250 plus VAT on a complaint to the Standards Commission against him last year.

Meanwhile the chairman of the SIC’s licensing board Cecil Smith also finds himself the subject of a complaint to the Standards Commission from the partner of former SIC chief executive David Clark.

Judith Miller claims that Mr Smith breached the code of conduct when he contacted the proprietor of a Lerwick pub enquiring about rumours that the couple had been evicted after having sex in the pub’s toilet.

Both complaints were submitted in September after the council itself failed to act on them, but only came to light this week.

Councillor Wills said the convener and vice convener had no authority to submit their complaint in October last year about comments he made following an internal SIC investigation into allegations that former chief executive Clark had threatened to assault him.

The complaint was also signed by Mr Clark, his deputy chief executive at the time Hazel Sutherland and monitoring officer Jan Riise.
 
In his letter, the councillor says: “They did not seek the authority of the council prior to making their complaint and they neglected to ensure that the Monitoring Officer compiled a report for the council beforehand, as he was required to do.”

The Standards Commission cleared councillor Wills of any wrongdoing in May and ever since he has sought redress through the council. After receiving no response he has taken the matter up outside Shetland.

On Friday he said: “I have tried repeatedly to get the council to deal with the fact that its two most senior office bearers spent more than three thousand pounds without the authority of the council. It may seem a small amount but the principle is not trivial.”

Meanwhile Ms Miller has raised a complaint alleging that councillor Cecil Smith had called the landlady at The Douglas Arms about rumours she had been caught having sex with former chief executive Clark in the pub’s toilets.

The matter was referred to during the hearing conducted in June by local government watchdog the Accounts Commission into the way the SIC was being run shortly after Mr Clark was paid £285,000 to leave office after just nine months in post.

The hearing heard that £230,500 of the settlement covered “personal injury and injury to feelings”.

When asked by the hearing what injury he had suffered, Mr Clark said: “You are in the garden and your partner gets a phone call from a publican to tell them that the publican has had a phone call from the head of the licensing board spreading rumours and raising rumours that the pair of us had had sex in a public toilet and been thrown out.

“And then my partner has to go and explain that that rumour is now circulating. She’s got to go and explain that to her 17 year old daughter, because of what a so-called elected member is doing, acting on rumour and innuendo. That is the kind of personal hurt.”

Last year, as well as the complaint submitted to the Standards Commission against councillor Wills, the watchdog also investigated complaints into councillors Gary Robinson, Caroline Miller, Jim Budge and Addie Doull.

Only the complaints against councillors Budge and Doull regarding their contribution to an agricultural debate in which they had a minor financial interest were upheld.

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