The High Court of Justice on Sunday struck down a petition to re-fire three indicted and previously fired mayors. The court noted that the Justice and Interior ministries had notified it that a new law for suspending certain indicted mayors was up and running, and that they would seek to suspend the mayors through that mechanism.
A petition calling for the re-firing of Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahiani, Ramat Hasharon Mayor Yitzhak Rochberger and Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gafsou had been filed by the NGO Movement for Quality of Government in Israel before the new law went into effect.
The three mayors, who are all currently under indictment, won reelection in October 2013 despite having been fired pre-election from their posts by the High Court.
The High Court said it was striking the petition only as a technical matter, and if the new law was not implemented the petition could be refiled.
The new law includes provisions for a three-person committee – made up of a retired district court judge, a retired city council member and an unaffiliated highly credentialed lawyer – to rule on whether to suspend local officials under indictment.
The committee will decide whether to suspend such officials for a year, and could extend the suspension beyond a year if the case has still not been completed.
Shortly after the October municipal elections, Rochberger voluntarily suspended himself as mayor pending the outcome of the corruption trial against him.
In November 2013, Attorney- General Yehuda Weinstein hinted in a legal submission to the High Court that he would not try to oust the other two indicted mayors if they suspended themselves like Rochberger.
The attorney-general’s statement suggested he approved of Rochberger’s voluntary suspension and would not press for the removal of Lahiani and Gafsou if they did the same. However the other mayors did not follow suit, and Weinstein has already asked the newly created committee to weigh suspending Lahiani, and has committed to doing the same with Gafsou.
Weinstein previously said the High Court should possibly take into consideration the fact that the mayors were reelected to office by the public. However, Weinstein had said the public’s vote of confidence in the mayors was not the end of the analysis, and the court could still decide that re-firing them was required by law and to uphold certain standards for public servants.
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