‘Irregularities’ in the council’s selection of a senior executive director were discussed while its webcast was switched off, the Times can reveal.

Several councillors quit the Staffing and Recruitment Committee in protest after the points-based system used when selecting an executive director was overridden, resulting in a different candidate getting the job.

This was when selecting candidates for the Executive Director for Economy and Communities at North Ayrshire Council back in July, 2014.

At last week’s Full Council Meeting, Independent and Tory councillors complained of not being allowed back onto that committee which will choose the next chief executive after Elma Murray’s retirement was announced last month.

Independent Cllr Ian Murdoch, who earlier questioned the make-up of the committee, asked if Tory leader Cllr Tom Marshall could explain why he quit it back in 2014 – prompting Provost Ian Clarkson to turn off the webcast and council leader Joe Cullinane request he remove the press and public.

One council insider said: “The motion was proposed by Cllr Marshall and seconded by Cllr McNicol and Cllr Marshall stated that three members of the committee resigned after the meeting to select a senior officer on July 21, 2014 due to irregularities during the meeting.

“It was revealed during debate that a candidate had been selected for the position under the correct procedures, then the voting on the position was changed and selection of the candidate was then made with a show of hands. Another candidate was then selected for the job.”

Minutes state Karen Yeomans was ultimately appointed to the post at the committee meeting back in July 21, 2014.

Present were Chief Executive Elma Murray, Fiona Walker, former Council leader Willie Gibson, ex-councillor Peter McNamara, councillors Marie Burns, Alex Gallagher, Tom Marshall, Ronnie McNicol and Robert Barr – who wished to have his dissent to the appointments process noted.

Those who quit were Cllr Marshall, Cllr McNicol, Cllr Barr and their nominated substitutes ex independent councillors John Hunter and Robert Steel.

This came to light after a motion was proposed stating that ‘council expresses regret at the failure of the administration to allow the Conservative and Independent members representation on the committee that will appoint the new Chief Executive’ – before it was voted down by Labour and SNP members.

Independents plus Labour, SNP and Conservative leaders declined to comment on the meeting’s confidential section.

However, Conservative Group leader Cllr Marshall said: “The Conservative group are disappointed to be excluded from staffing and recruitment committee particularly in view of the appointment of the new chief executive.

"One third of the council are not represented and there was no reason why the timetable could not be adjusted for the Independent and Conservative members to join.

“This might call in to question the confidence we would have in the new chief executive.”

Asked why this should have been discussed in private, a North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “The webcast was suspended for as short a time as possible to allow full debate by elected members.

“This was becaus e members started to debate private, confidential matters relating to specific individuals.

“The council’s Standing Orders allow for the webcast to be turned off.”