Ashdod Port Chairman Preempts Moves to Fire Him by Resigning

Sitterman cites health reasons; faced allegations of nepotism, political shenanigans

 The chairman of the Ashdod Port announced his resignation Thursday, ending an attempt by regulators to fire him. Gideon Sitterman’s resignation is the latest development in an affair that involves allegations of nepotism, managerial improprieties and political wheelings and dealings involving government ministers.

Sitterman, a former director general at the Transportation Ministry and a close associate of Likud leaders, was appointed in 2012. He was known for his aggressive stance against the Ashdod Port union, which itself has made no small number of headlines amid allegations of nepotism and improprieties.

Three months ago, the Government Companies Authority initiated proceedings to oust Sitterman, and he was recently given a pre-dismissal hearing. The dismissal process was halted when he announced his resignation.

Sitterman cited his health as the reason for the resignation. He has been absent from his job for the past month following an operation.

This leaves the seaport without a permanent chairman or CEO, following the resignation of CEO Shuki Sagis in July.

The Government Companies Authority informed Sitterman and two board members in December that it intended to oust them. The authority had not previously unseated board members at government-owned companies.

The regulator alleged that the board members had not given proper weight to the port’s impact on the Israeli public.

Ori Yogev, head of the Government Companies Authority, had himself been oustedas chairman of the Israel Railways by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz. Katz strongly opposed Yogev’s intent to oust Sitterman, but was helpless to stop the move, said Finance Ministry sources.

The Government Companies Authority alleged that the board members and chairman had failed to act in the face of information about the private business dealings of Ashdod Port union chairman Alon Hassan. Hassan was found to have private companies that were doing business with the port. The board members and chairman also failed to appoint a vice president for finances and a legal adviser since the end of 2010, and also failed to make sure workers accused or convicted of crimes were suspended or fired, said the agency.

It also mentioned a letter by Sagis detailing a list of complaints against Sitterman. Sagis alleged that Sitterman had met with Hassan at the latter’s house to discuss appointing political associates to jobs at the port, allegedly at Katz’s bidding. Sagis also alleged that Sitterman had tried to intervene in tenders at the port.

Eyal Toueg
Ilya Melnikov