Senior Justice Ministry officials convened for urgent talks this week after it emerged that the chairwoman of the Land Appraisals Council has been running the regulatory body for the past four years without the authority to do so.
Attorney Sarit Dana was appointed to a three-year term in 2006, but her appointment wasn't renewed. Officials now fear they may be forced to annul all her decisions, causing damages amounting to hundreds of millions of shekels.
The Land Appraisals Council is authorized by the Land Appraisals law. It serves as the regulator overseeing more than 2,000 land appraisers. It consists of 11 members and five employees, and convenes monthly to supervise appraisals and appraisal students, authorize new land appraisers, and deal with disciplinary matters.
The chairwoman has the legal authority to appoint an appraiser to settle arguments between appraisers. In some cases, the differences between appraisals can be tens of millions of shekels.
Until last week, Dana also served as deputy attorney general for civil affairs. She is considered a dominant legal adviser on civil law, especially since the current attorney general, Joseph Shapira, specialized in criminal law.
Her main project was the new Planning and Construction law (the so-called "balcony law"), one of the Netanyahu government's most visible banner proposals. "She is the most powerful woman in Israel in civil affairs. She calls the shots," a senior attorney specializing in civil affairs told Haaretz.
While holding that post, Dana was appointed by Tzipi Livni to chair the Land Appraisals Council. Her appointment expired on January 10, 2009, but, for reasons yet to be revealed, it was never renewed. Nonetheless, Dana continued functioning as usual, and apparently did not alert her superiors to the legal situation.
Recently, Justice Ministry officials discovered that she was acting without authority, and senior officials hurriedly convened to discuss the matter. Probably due to the embarrassment it would cause, the affair remained secret, and two of the 11 members of the council first heard about it from Haaretz.
At present, the issue is to be dealt with by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman. Several of the legal advisers in the ministry believe that all Dana's decision since 2009 have no legal authority. The Justice Ministry responded that "the matter is being examined."
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