The courts announced on Thursday that the Bat Yam City Council would meet on October 16 to decide whether to remove its Mayor Shlomo Lahiani following his recent indictment for bribery, only days before countrywide municipal elections.

The announcement also came following a petition to remove him to the High Court of Justice and Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein's statement Wednesday that he was not fit to continue in office.

Following the Bat Yam Council meeting, the state is expected to update the court and the court is expected to hear the petition to remove Lahiani on October 20.

The council could take no action, remove Lahiani but allow him to run for reelection or disqualify him both as mayor and from running.

On Wednesday, Weinstein had responded to an OMETZ petition to the High Court to fire Lahiani and disqualify him from running for reelection, stating that Lahiani is “unfit” to “run for reelection, but there is no legal way to stop” him.

Weinstein had said that the indictment against Lahiani, filed on October 1, was even “more severe” than the recent indictments against the mayors of Nazareth Ilit and Ramat Hasharon.

In a recent mixed decision by the High Court, both mayors were forced to step down only weeks before elections, but were still permitted to run for reelection.

 

The High Court’s rationale for compelling the mayors to step down was based on an interpretation of the potentially applicable laws expanding a trend to make public officials step down if they have sufficiently severe charges filed against them.

 

At the same time, the High Court had said that the Knesset simply had not legislated a rule prohibiting persons indicted for a crime to run for election, prohibiting only those convicted of crimes carrying a finding of moral turpitude.

 

Weinstein explained his rationale that neither he nor OMETZ has a “legal” way to stop Lahiani from running as a function of the court’s recent decision and its clarification that, absent a conviction with moral turpitude, there is no bar for running for office.

The attorney-general said he hoped that the Bat Yam City Council would take action against Lahiani, as they had legislative power to remove him even without a court decision.

Lahiani is suspected of taking between NIS 800-900,000 in bribes, starting in 2005, to advance the interests of local businessmen in Bat Yam and asking nine municipality employees to take bank loans and transfer the money to him.

Lahiani is also accused of a conflict of interest for holding partial ownership in a local newspaper from which the Bat Yam municipality bought advertising space.

Prior to the indictment, Lahiani was considered a highly popular mayor and was credited with a level of revitalization of Bat Yam.

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