The Knesset Wednesday unanimously approved a bill compelling mayors who have been indicted for felonies to step down until their trials have ended.
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The bill, sponsored by Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, stipulates that a special committee will decide whether the indicted mayor or authority head is suspended for a year during his trial. The committee will be able to extend the suspension period.
Two months ago, two days before the local elections, the High Court of Justice removed Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahiani from his post, after he was indicted for taking bribes, fraud, money laundering and perjury. But the court allowed him to run for reelection despite the indictment.
In an earlier ruling in the case of Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso and Ramat Hasharon Mayor Yitzhak Rochberger, who are also facing corruption charges, the court said they could not be prevented from running for reelection.
Sa’ar pressured the cabinet not to back an almost identical bill sponsored by MK Moshe Mizrahi (Labor) a few weeks ago. The bill, aiming to prevent indicted mayors from running in the elections, came after three mayors who were charged with corruption decided to contend anyway.
Sa’ar said he would propose a “legislative arrangement” to deal with cases of indicted mayors after the local elections in October.
“A situation of chaos and uncertainty was created, not only in the three local authorities [whose mayors were indicted], but in principle. The situation caused tension between a person’s ability to be elected and whether he could serve as mayor,” Sa’ar said.
“The new law reflects the desire to preserve integrity and public trust, as well as democratic norms. The committee will ensure handling the cases it comes across in a way that will gain the public’s trust,” Sa’ar said.
Sa’ar and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni agreed to appoint former court administrator Judge (ret.) Moshe Gal as head of the committee. Sa’ar also appointed Miriam Rosenthal, Tel Aviv district attorney in 1996-2002 and Moti Avisrur, former Yeroham local council head as committee members.