MK Ronit Tirosh (Kadima ) petitioned the National Labor Court this week, persisting in her efforts to receive an enlarged pension benefit package, worth close to NIS 30,000 a month. The dispute over the state-supported benefits focuses on whether her term as director general of the Education Ministry will be counted as employment in the civil service.
At the end of July, state prosecutors challenged a 2005 legal ruling issued by Nurit Elstein, now the Knesset's legal adviser, upholding Tirosh's contention that her Education Ministry term be considered a civil service job. But the state prosecution argues that Elstein's friendship with Tirosh may have prejudiced her 2005 findings.
This week, Tirosh asked the National Labor Court to summon Elstein to testify about her ruling, which she rendered when she served as director of the department of work disputes in the State Prosecutor's Office. Tirosh expects Elstein's testimony to dispel suspicions that their friendship may have influenced her ruling on the pension issue.
Tirosh also wants the court to ask Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander to testify. The State Prosecutor's Office has objected to the involvement of Hollander and Elstein as witnesses in this matter.
In her petition, Tirosh said the head of work disputes in the State Prosecutor's Office regularly submits opinions to government officials. During the time when Elstein submitted on opinion regarding Tirosh's pension, "the head of the [work dispute] department did nothing that deviated from normal work procedures," Tirosh's appeal states. "There were no special ties between Tirosh and the head of the department that might have influenced the finding or its contents."
While serving as director general of the Education Ministry between 2001 and 2005, Tirosh had asked Elstein, in her capacity as head of the work dispute department, to deliver an opinion about her pension entitlements as a civil servant. Tirosh has also worked as a teacher and principal, but had two extended leaves of absence and worked in a municipal, rather than state, position as director of the education department for the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality. Tirosh appealed to Elstein after the Civil Service Commission issued an opinion rejecting her claims about pension benefits.
Elstein sent Tirosh a draft opinion before completing her work on the matter, and referred to Tirosh by the nickname "Ronitush" on the draft opinion. Tirosh wrote comments on the draft, and signed it with the words: "Thanks for everything! Love, Ronit."
The state prosecutors content that the friendship between Tirosh and Elstein is problematic, and told the Tel Aviv District Labor Court last month that their relationship has implications regarding the objectivity of Elstein's ruling.
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