NGO demands court re-fire victorious mayors under indictment

Bat Yam's Shlomo Lahiani, Ramat Hasharon's Yitzhak Rochberger, and Nazareth Illit's Shimon Gafsou all won re-election Tuesday.

Bat Yam Mayor Lahiani (photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
Bat Yam Mayor Lahiani
(photo credit: YONAH JEREMY BOB)
OMETZ petitioned the High Court of Justice on Wednesday demanding that three mayors who are under indictment for corruptionrelated charges be dismissed from their posts.
The High Court recently removed from office Shlomo Lahiani (Bat Yam), Yitzhak Rochberger (Ramat Hasharon) and Shimon Gapso (Upper Nazareth), also on a petition by OMETZ – The Movement for Quality of Government in Israel. All three of them, however, won reelection on Tuesday.
The bizarre scenario is a result of a new precedent the court established that sets rules on the issues of whether local officials can remain in office while under indictment for financial crimes, as opposed to violent crimes, and whether such incumbent officials can run for reelection? At the national level, the law has been interpreted to require that ministers step down from their posts upon indictment, as Avigdor Liberman stepped down as foreign minister, but to allow them to remain in the Knesset and run for reelection until and unless they are convicted.
The issue had never been decided at the local level, but the court said it has the authority to remove mayors such as Lahiani, Rochberger and Gapso from office (in Lahiani’s case less than two days before elections).
But the High Court added that the Knesset had not given it the authority to bar such candidates from running for reelection unless they were first convicted.
OMETZ asked the court for an immediate interim order freezing the election results and prohibiting any coalition negotiations until the court ruled on the issue.
The petition argued that even though the public chose to reelect the three mayors, sometimes the courts must encroach on the public’s choice in an election to guarantee its right to choose from noncorrupt candidates in future elections.
OMETZ’s spokesman indicated that despite the public’s decision to reelect the mayors, the petition had a real chance and “the court is obligated to intervene.”
All three candidates have emphasized the part of the High Court’s recent ruling that allowed them to run for reelection, stressing that the most important principle was that they were innocent until proven guilty.
The court has left the door open to refiring the mayors after they won reelection.