Whistleblowers Get Protection for Revealing Israeli Town’s Mismanagement

'I feel we've gotten a boost in the battle against corruption,' a Zichron Yaakov municipal employee said, adding she resigned because coworkers were harassing her.

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Zichron Yaakov.
Zichron Yaakov.Credit: Itzik Ben Malki

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira has issued three permanent whistleblower protection orders to employees of the Zichron Yaakov local council who exposed financial mismanagement.

Shapira told the council Monday to halt dismissal proceedings against Nir Kabalo, head of the town’s operations department, and Sharon Azoulai, responsible for the municipal hotline.

In a highly unusual move, Shapira also said that if the two decided not to continue working there, the council would have to give each full severance pay and additional compensation equal to 36 months’ salary.

A protection order was also issued to the local council’s bookkeeper, Oshrit Shoshan, even though she decided to resign. The council was ordered to pay her full severance and additional compensation of 12 months’ salary.

Shapira said Kabalo and Azoulai must be allowed to continue their work exactly as before and all necessary resources to do so must be put at their disposal.

“The council, its chairman, Mr. Eli Abutbul, and its employees must refrain from any action or omission that will undermine their status, authority or performance, and from any other harassment, including the creation of a hostile environment,” Shapira said.

Both Kabalo and Azoulai had received temporary protection orders in 2013, when they first revealed the irregularities. Shoshan, who had also received temporary protection from the comptroller, told Haaretz she was excited about the permanent order and the support from Shapira.

“I feel we’ve gotten a boost in the battle against corruption,” she said, adding that she resigned because she could no longer cope with the daily harassment from coworkers, which she said had the backing of the council’s chairman and secretary.

When it became clear to the council head that she had cooperated with the State Comptroller’s Office and police in their investigation, she was summoned to his office, where several officials were waiting, Shoshan said.

“They reprimanded me and I felt as if they were lynching me for several hours,” she said. “From that day I was estranged from the new treasurer, who took over most of my duties. There were threats against me and my family; they damaged my car.”

Shoshan said she planned to file a police complaint “against all my superiors for the blatant and ongoing violation of the protection granted me by the state comptroller.”

She added: “I’m pleased the state comptroller ordered compensation for all of us, but personally I don’t think this compensation will encourage other workers to expose corruption. I think it would be more effective if the compensation had to be paid personally by those who hurt us, which would deter other employers from harming employees who expose corruption.”

According to Shoshan, “As it stands now, the ones paying the price for the harm done by local council officials are the people of Zichron Yaakov, since the compensation will be paid from the public purse.”

The Zichron Yaakov council declined to comment, saying it had to go over the state comptroller’s report.

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