Corridors of Power: Too hot to handle?

Corridors of Power Too

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December 17, 2009 13:59
3 minute read.

 
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In 1994 there was a fire in the industrial zone of Atarot. In those days before the second intifada, the northern industrial zone was a very active and successful area of the city. After the fire was put out - but not before a lot of damage was incurred - it was discovered that a large amount of electronic material had been stolen, such as audiotapes and the like, amounting to several thousand shekels. City council member and leader of the one-man opposition on the city council, Meir Turgeman, was the investigating officer of the firemen. Right from the start, the investigation implicated Moshe Suissa, one of the firemen on the scene, as the prime suspect. But for reasons that remain unclear, the investigation did not lead to an arrest. In fact, Suissa was even promoted. After a short time, Turgeman resigned from the municipality (firemen are employees of the municipality), and the case was closed without any conclusions. At that time Ehud Olmert, still a Likudnik then, was the new mayor after the 20-year reign of legendary mayor Teddy Kollek, and the municipal union chief was Danny Bonfil, a well-known member of the Labor Party. Bonfil was a tough man who nobody, including Olmert, dared to tangle with. One of his favorite activities was to launch a strike whenever he felt - rightly or wrongly - that some prejudice had been perpetrated against an employee, usually those employees who were his close friends. Over the years, with the full support of Bonfil and, for some reason, complete disregard for mayor Olmert, Suissa climbed the municipal ladder - despite an ever-growing list of claims of violence and inappropriate behavior toward his peers and the public, which ended with 17 police files - until he became the deputy head of the Fire Department. According to Turgeman, who was elected in 2003 as city council member in Barkat's party, he warned newly elected mayor Uri Lupolianski against continuing to employ Suissa and suggested that a way should be found to get rid of him. But nothing was done, and a year later a tender was published for the position of fire chief. Moshe Tashra, another fireman, ran for the position and had, due to his qualities and good manners, a very good chance of being named. This kind of obstacle apparently didn't bother Suissa, who blatantly offered Tashra NIS 40,000 to persuade him to renounce the tender. Tashra, who understood immediately what a refusal could lead to, accepted the deal and Suissa was chosen and named head fireman of the municipality of Jerusalem. After a while Tashra, whose conscience apparently got the better of him, revealed the deal to the public. City controller Shlomit Rubin, horrified by the revelation, decided to launch her own investigation and submitted a complaint to the police. As a result, Suissa had to be suspended from service, at least until the police investigation was completed. As soon as Suissa was under investigation, a large group of firemen began to come forth and gave full testimonies about their former boss's behavior. It was at the time of the recent elections for city council and mayor. Barkat, upon entering office, decided to act with a little more courage than his predecessors and ordered that Suissa be fully suspended (until then, he was suspended from the duty of fire chief but still worked in the department). It didn't take long for Bonfil's successor, current head of the municipality's workers union Zion Dahan, to issue an official decision of the union saying that Suissa had their full support and thus requested that he be returned to his position. For quite a while, Barkat refused and made it clear that Suissa had no place in his administration. That was until two weeks ago. And then, all of a sudden, people found out that Jerusalem city manager Yair Ma'ayan had recently added a new employee to his chambers. You guessed it - Moshe Suissa. True, for the moment the intimidating ex-fireman is a kind of "go for this, go for that," but his somewhat threatening presence is real: All the firemen who dared to testify against him during the police investigation are shaking in their boots, convinced that pretty soon their former boss will be back to liquidate them. And Turgeman? Well, he says he feels a little bit like Cato the Elder in Rome, but so far he has decided not to interfere anymore.

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