Under Fraud Investigation, Israeli Mayor Returns to City Hall

Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg greeted with balloons and applause by some, calls to suspend herself by others.

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg on her first day back at city hall, three months after she was arrested on suspicion of bribery and fraud, November 30, 2016.
Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg on her first day back at city hall, three months after she was arrested on suspicion of bribery and fraud, November 30, 2016.Credit: Courtesy
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg — who was arrested in September on suspicion of money laundering, fraud and taking bribes — returned to her job at city hall Wednesday, despite the ongoing police investigation against her.

Police had banned Feirberg from the municipality during their investigation, but did not ask for a further extension of the order, which expired November 30, due to a lack of progress in their probe.

A court approved Feirberg’s return to work, under certain restrictions, including forbidding her from making contact with particular municipal officials, such as those in the engineering department and forums that deal with planning and construction. Also, she is prohibited from any involvement in projects relevant to the investigation.

Feirberg was received with applause and cheers by municipal staff members holding balloons at her office door.

But not all were happy to see her back.

Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg in court, September 2016.Credit: Channel 10 screenshot

“The mayor cannot return to her office as though nothing’s happened,” said council member Haim Friedrich. “I think she should suspend herself immediately and work on clearing her name from her home.

“Netanya residents deserve more than a half-time mayor,” he said.

As a rule, the police object to senior officials’ return to office in the midst of a corruption investigation. However, in this case the court approved the move, deciding that it would not affect the inquiry.

During the past three months Feirberg was permitted to be in continuous touch with the municipality’s general manager, to ensure the city’s orderly management, but she did not come to her office.

Feirberg was arrested in September by police fraud squad officers. Also arrested were her son, Zafrir Feirberg, and six other suspects, including lawyer, Avraham Gugig, and Netanya Deputy Mayor Rabbi Shimon Sher.

The arrest came six weeks after Haaretz published an expose raising questions about her conduct as Netanya mayor, an office she has held since 1998. The report centered on Feirberg and her son’s involvement in real estate deals worth millions of shekels, together with entrepreneurs from the Tshuva family and Gugig. The findings suggested the Feirberg had properties in projects owned by Tshuva family contractors.

The expose also suggested that the mayor had signed building permits for projects, in which she and her son had apartments.