Suspended Israeli Antidrug Czar Quits, at Great Taxpayer Expense

Yair Geller salary cost taxpayers some 700,000 shekels for the period he was not working.

Yair Geller
Emil Salman

The director of the Israel Anti-Drug Authority, Yair Geller, has resigned – a year and a half after he was suspended for suspected involvement in the so-called Yisrael Beiteinu corruption affair.

Over the 17 months in which Geller was suspended but still officially employed, he received some 450,000 shekels ($118,000) in gross salary payments: 10 months at full pay of 33,359 shekels a month, and seven months at half-pay.

Including benefits and employer pension contributions, Geller cost taxpayers between 700,000 shekels and 800,000 shekels over the period of his suspension.

Eight months ago the police recommended that Geller be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

At a session of the Knesset Committee on Drug Abuse on Wednesday, agency officials said Geller submitted his resignation to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on May 13.

The move came after Erdan summoned Geller to a pre-termination hearing, in accordance with the recommendation of the Civil Service Commission disciplinary branch.

The Israel Anti-Drug Authority said all the payments made to Geller complied with Civil Service Commission directives.

Geller was first arrested in December 2014. He is suspected of paying bribes to former Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset member and Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirshenbaum. Geller was chosen to head the anti-drug agency in 2008, despite being the search committee’s second choice.

The top-ranked candidate, Yael Aran, petitioned the High Court of Justice against Geller’s appointment. In April 2009 the court overturned the appointment and ordered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reconsider the top three candidates, but it allowed Geller to stay on as acting director general.

At about the same time, the agency was moved from the Prime Minister’s Office to the Public Security Ministry, then headed by Yitzhak Aharonovitch of Yisrael Beiteinu. Aharonovitch reappoint Geller, and a second petition to the High Court was rejected.

In August 2015 the government moved to shut down the Israel Anti-Drug Authority, after 27 years in operation, arguing that the move would save 20 million shekels a year.

The agency’s activities were to be merged into two other Public Security Ministry programs, City Without Violence and Metzila — Community and Crime Prevention, to form a single agency.

The decision, which took the Israel Anti-Drug Authority completely by surprise, was expected to reduce the combined agencies’ staff numbers by about 20 percent.