Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai has held election-campaign related meetings in his city hall bureau in Rabin Square for the party launched publicly last week.
The Israelis party said the meetings abided by directives of the state attorney general, which allows cabinet ministers and their deputies to use official offices for private purposes – and that a proper party campaign headquarters would soon be opened.
In the absence of a campaing bureau, sources told Haaretz, Huldai had met with advisers and other employees at the mayor’s office in recent weeks.
A source also said Huldai “had all sorts of people with him, a lot of his meetings were held in his office. All his preparations for running took place in his office.”
The use of city property included the mayor’s official Facebook page, where he uploaded political posts alongside posts on regular city affairs.
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The party said that campaign workers are responsible for the political posts on Huldai’s pages. When he founded the party, Huldai said he would not resign as mayor before the election, and his future in office would be decided according to the Knesset election results and negotiations for a future coalition government.
On Monday, three Tel Aviv city council members from the Anachnu Ha’Ir (We are the City) party sent a letter to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit asking him to examine Huldai’s actions – and urging him to order Huldai to stop using city resources for his election campaign. They cited suspicons of a possible conflict of interests concerning donors to Huldai’s campaign, who ”may expect benefits on the part of the mayor.”
The city councilors also commented on a report on Monday in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, that a city employee had taken steps to raise funds for Huldai’s campaign. “Huldai is running an election campaign on the backs and pockets of the city’s residents,” they wrote, also alleging : “after hastening to make infrastructure cuts when the coronavirus pandemic broke out, he is now using city resources for the benefit of his election campaign.” They called forHuldai to take a leave of absence for the duration of the campaign for the March 23 election.
The Israelis party responded that “the mayor did indeed hold meetings at his office on political affairs, which there is nothing wrong with doing while abiding by instructions from the attorney general with regard to cabinet ministers.
"These instructions which are also valid for mayors, state that ‘there is no reason why (not) during the course of his work day … that he may hold telephone calls on political matters, too, or hold a personal meeting about a party matter.’ All aspects of Huldai’s political activity, including digital activity, is conducted solely by campaign staff.”