By lyn barton
Speculation is mounting about the future of an under-fire council supremo amid reports he is to leave his job and receive a hefty pay-out.
Philip Hygate, chief executive of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, was suspended at the end of October after a complaint was lodged by the authority's chairman.
However, on the tight-knit island community, where secrets have proved almost impossible to keep, the £110,000-a-year officer is now being widely spoken of as about to leave his post.
One islander, who asked not to be named, said Mr Hygate's departure from a post he has held for more than two decades was an open secret.
"From the airport to the quay, the prospect of his imminent departure and a future without him is the talk of the town," he said.
A spokesman for the Council of the Isles of Scilly refused to answer any questions.
He said: "I can only say that we are unable further to comment on this matter.
"This is an ongoing, private employment issue, and as such I am unable to answer your questions."
Amanda Martin, deputy chairman of the council, was also tight-lipped regarding Mr Hygate's case.
"I am not able to comment on it at all," she said.
"It would be a dereliction of my duty as a councillor if I was to comment."
The initial complaint about the chief executive was lodged by council chairman Mike Hicks. He said he was unaware of any outcome.
"I brought the official complaint against [Mr Hygate] and as such I have had to declare an interest and have been excluded from any subsequent discussions on the matter," he said.
When contacted by the Western Morning News, Mr Hygate refused to take the call and his wife, Georgina, said he was "not allowed to talk to reporters".
She further added that claims her husband had resigned were "not true".
Mr Hygate was suspended for a period of two months following a behind-closed-doors meeting of senior councillors on October 30.
The decision was described as a "neutral act" to allow an inquiry.
It came on the heels of a tumultuous period in which Mr Hygate had been repeatedly questioned over the extent of his role in the Bryce Wilby saga.
The head teacher of the islands' only school was suspended in May, then resigned while an inquiry into his leadership was ongoing.
The investigation into Mr Hygate's conduct was due to have been carried out by an independent person appointed by Local Government Minister Eric Pickles after neither the council nor Mr Hygate's representative could agree on a suitable candidate.
It is understood no-one has been appointed to lead the inquiry as yet.
A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government would only say in response to that recent development: "The department has recently received correspondence from the Isles of Scilly and will respond shortly."
Mr Hygate has maintained a unique position in town hall politics. As well as the role of chief executive which he has held for 22 years, he is the council's returning officer, monitoring officer investigating complaints and is responsible for dealing with Freedom of Information requests.