Ramat Hasharon Mayor Rochberger suspends himself amid corruption trial

Rochberger facing charges of fraud, breach of trust and falsifying corporate documents.

Gavel from Reuters 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Chip East)
Gavel from Reuters 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Chip East)
At the opening of his trial on corruption charges on Wednesday at the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, Ramat Hasharon Mayor Yitzhak Rochberger said he had suspended himself as mayor.
Rochberger faces charges of fraud, breach of trust and falsifying corporate documents.
The heart of the case against Rochberger is the allegation that he falsified and substantially inflated amounts for reimbursement that he requested for costs as part of a prior public service position.
In court on Wednesday, Rochberger’s attorney Lior Epstein questioned the prosecution about whether it was only accusing him of inflating his reimbursement costs as part of his public service work, or whether it alleged that he had no right to reimbursements at all due to the nature of his position.
The prosecution responded that it needed some time to consider Rochberger’s question, and the court gave it seven days. Witness testimony for the trial was set for January 2014.
Explaining Rochberger’s decision to temporarily suspend himself as mayor, Epstein noted “the defendant has decided to announce his temporary suspension so that he can focus on the trial.”
Last week, Rochberger was reelected mayor of Ramat Hasharon despite the corruption charges against him.
“I have asked my lawyer to announce my decision in order to complete the process by January or February. I start work on November 13, so it won’t be a great disaster if I take a month off. My deputy will assume my responsibilities,” Channel 2 quoted Rochberger as saying.
Rochberger made the announcement of his suspension outside the courthouse, before his trial opened.
“I have no intention of criticizing the legal system but rather to acknowledge its authority and to step aside during the trial process,” he added.
“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 High Court ruled that Rochberger was to be removed a month before the last round of local elections in October, in which he won a majority vote of 56 percent. While the court did not formally prevent Rochberger from running for reelection, it strongly recommended he refrain from doing so.
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar is scheduled to issue a preliminary memorandum on a proposed bill next week that will determine that a mayor facing serious charges can be suspended.