(photo credit: INIMAGE)
The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Sunday convicted Ramat Hasharon Mayor Yitzhak Rochberger of fraud, breach of public trust, forging corporate and other documents as well as using fraudulent documents.
Rochberger was acquitted by Judge Ido Druyan only on the charge of using receipts for reimbursement for expenses multiple times.
The mayor is to be sentenced on January 15 on a conviction that mostly related to his fraudulent receipt of around NIS 118,000 from the local professional development authority during the years 2003-07.
As head of the authority at the time, a part-time position, Rochberger was not authorized to receive a salary.
Yet the conviction said that he received NIS 6,000 each month under the guise of reimbursements for expenses, but which was functionally an unlawful salary, particularly since he forged documents to receive the “reimbursements” and many of them were for personal expenses not related to the authority, such as restaurant and television set bills.
The conviction came days after a major corruption investigation was announced against a variety of top Yisrael Beytenu officials as well as some in Likud.
The trial opened in October 2013 with Rochberger suspending himself as mayor pending the outcome.
Explaining Rochberger’s decision to temporarily suspend himself as mayor at the time, lawyer Lior Epstein said, “The defendant has decided to announce his temporary suspension so that he can focus on the trial.”
He suspended himself not long after being reelected as mayor despite the corruption charges and the indictment against him being known by the public.
The mayor had said, “I think I have acted responsibly and we have done nothing to obstruct procedures. I am confident that I will be serving as Ramat Hasharon’s mayor for the next five years.”
The dramatic suspension decision had come just after another dramatic decision, this one by the High Court of Justice, ruling that Rochberger was to be removed as mayor just a month before the last round of local elections in October 2013, in which he won a majority vote of 56 percent for another candidacy as mayor.
While the High Court did not formally prevent Rochberger running again for reelection, it strongly recommended he refrain from doing so – a recommendation he ignored.
Subsequently, the High Court struck a petition to refire Rochberger and two other indicted and previously fired mayors, saying that the Justice and Interior Ministries had notified it both that a new law for suspending certain indicted mayors was up and running and that they would seek to suspend the mayors.
The petition had been filed by the nongovernmental organization Movement for Quality of Government in Israel, prior to the law going into effect, to refire Bat Yam mayor Shlomo Lahiani, Rochberger and Upper Nazareth mayor Shimon Gafsou pending resolution of the indictments against each of them.