(photo credit: INIMAGE)
The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Sunday sentenced Ramat Hasharon mayor Yitzhak Rochberger to six months of community service for his convictions for fraud, breach of public trust, forging corporate and other documents and using forged documents.
The court found that Rochberger’s crimes constituted moral turpitude, which means he cannot return to public office for at least seven years, possibly ending his public career.
The Ramat Hasharon mayor, who is due to begin his community service on June 25, was fined NIS 40,000 and given a six-month suspended jail sentence that would come into effect if he again committed similar crimes in the next two years.
The December 2014 convictions mostly related to Rochberger’s fraudulent receipt of around NIS 118,000 from a local development authority during the years 2003-2007.
As head of the authority at the time, a non-full-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 that the sum was really functionally an unlawful salary, particularly since he forged documents to receive the “reimbursements,” and many of the them were for personal expenses not related to the authority, such as restaurant and television set bills.
Separately, Rochberger had also been acquitted by Judge Ido Druyan on the charge of using receipts for reimbursement for expenses multiple times.
The court said that his actions “deviated in a negative and problematic way from the path of honesty, credibility and fairness, which are the basic qualities required of public servants.”
He responded to the sentence by downplaying the conviction and sentence as part of a wave of overzealousness toward serious corruption, in which he was swept up despite his claim that his deeds were much more minor than those of other public figures.
He objected to the moral turpitude finding and appeared to be considering appealing that aspect of the decision.
The prosecution viewed the decision as a mixed bag.
On one hand, it said that it was satisfied that the court made a finding of moral turpitude, forcing Rochberger from office. On the other hand, it had requested that he receive prison time and the court only gave him community service.
It was expected to review the decision in detail before deciding whether to appeal and seek a stiffer sentence with jail time or rest its case having succeeded in forcing him from office.
The trial opened in October 2013 with Rochberger suspending himself as mayor pending the trial’s outcome.
Explaining his decision to temporarily suspend himself as mayor at the time, lawyer Lior Epstein said that “the defendant has decided to announce his temporary suspension so that he can focus on the trial.”
Rochberger suspended himself not long after being reelected as mayor despite the corruption charges and the indictment against him being known by the public.