Ousted city official rehired for celebrations

Years after the TA Municipality's Culture Dept. manager left his job amid scandal, the city is now paying him thousands to be a consultant for its upcoming 100th birthday.

Five years after the Tel Aviv Municipality's Culture Department manager Ya'akov Mendel left his job amid allegations that he had misused public funds, the city is now paying him tens of thousands of shekels to act as a consultant for its upcoming 100th birthday celebrations, reports the Hebrew weekly Yediot Tel Aviv. The committee organizing the celebrations is justifying its actions by saying that Mendel is experienced and knowledgeable and will help greatly in planning the celebrations, but there is heated criticism of his being hired. According to the report, Mendel hit the headlines in 2002 when the city comptroller issued a scathing report that he had wasted large amounts of public money on events that never took place, and also that he had used taxpayers' money to promote his own personal television program on Channel 33, a program which is still running today. Among the most serious incidents cited by the comptroller was the spending of NIS 666,000 on a cinema festival that never eventuated and for which just NIS 260,000 had been budgeted; and the redirection of NIS 424,000 from a budget for artists' activities to Mendel's television program. Mayor Ron Huldai said at the time that Mendel had "behaved in an inappropriate way towards the department's budget." However, a police investigation concluded that there was no basis for prosecution. The newspaper said the city's memory appears to be short, while Committee head Hila Oren said, "not many people" had the expertise in producing large events that Mendel had, and he was helping greatly in organizing the planning of the huge celebrations. Mendel himself said he had been approached to provide advice, and he had agreed. "I plan to finish my task and move forward in the private market," he said. But a municipal spokesman hurried to say that Mendel had not been hired through the city's Human Resources Department, and that his employment would be ended immediately.