Ministry Fires, Reinstates Bar-Lev Complainant, Orly Innes Within Hour

Dr. Orly Innes was fired from her job at the Public Security Ministry yesterday, only to be reinstated less than an hour later.

Innes came to public attention last month when she filed sexual harassment complaints first against then-ministry Director General Hagai Peleg and later against police Maj. Gen. Uri Bar-Lev, leading the former to resign and the latter to drop out of the race to become the next police commissioner.

It is not clear who at the ministry, which is in charge of the police force, was behind the "attempted liquidation," as one of her friends termed it. But officially, the ministry blamed Deputy Director General Dori Levy.

Yesterday, a terse announcement from the ministry stunned reporters.

"Dr. Orly Innes' employment contract ended on November 7," it said. "Dr. Innes vehemently refused to extend the contract, despite repeated requests by the Public Security Ministry. Because all the efforts and requests to extend her contract did not succeed, the Public Security Ministry, via Deputy Director General Dori Levy, and in line with the attorney general's instructions, decided to terminate her employment."

It is possible that someone at the ministry understood almost immediately that firing a woman who had recently accused both a senior ministry employee and a leading police officer of sexual harassment looked terrible, regardless of whether or not her contract had lapsed. But the recognition was undoubtedly helped along by Asaf Rosenberg, who heads the Civil Service Commission's disciplinary department: He promptly reminded the ministry that weeks ago, when Innes filed her complaint against Peleg, he had warned that it could not fire her or otherwise worsen her employment conditions until the investigation of her complaint had been completed.

As a result, Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch hastened to personally issue a retraction.

"The public security minister has decided to freeze the process of [dismissing] Dr. Innes until he has studied the gist of the decision, since it was not done with his knowledge or consent," the retraction said. "Dr. Innes' job remains unchanged."

Yet Aharonovitch's claim that he did not know about the firing seemed strange to many ministry officials, since Innes was the woman in charge of the City without Violence project - a project that the minister has personally nurtured and remained very involved in, with the result that he and Innes worked together closely.

Ministry sources said Aharonovitch now planned to investigate what had led Levy to fire her.

In the brief interlude before Aharonovitch froze her dismissal, Innes responded angrily. "It's not enough that violence was used against me, that I was assaulted; it's not enough that I've been smeared, besmirched and scorned," she said. "Now, in order to finish the liquidation job, they've decided to fire me. Unfortunately, that's what happens to crime victims and those who expose corruption in this enlightened state of law."

She also pointed out that her firing was illegal under the sexual harassment law.

Innes is the person who first developed the City without Violence program, which pioneered in Eilat. In 2006, the government decided to apply it nationwide and hired her as an outside consultant to run the project, which now operates in about 80 cities.

In November 2009, she signed a new one-year contract with the state which included an option to extend it for another year. As November 2010 approached, the Public Security Ministry informed her that it wanted to exercise that option and sent her a new contract that would run through November 2011.

Innes claims that after she filed her complaint against Peleg, the ministry scrapped that offer and replaced it with a two-month contract. That is the document she refused to sign, and which subsequently led to her short-lived dismissal.

"The Public Security Ministry's conduct is very surprising and raises many questions," said her attorney, Barak Calev. "What message does the ministry want to send to future complainants when it - the ministry responsible for the law enforcement agencies that are supposed to receive these complaints - harasses and wounds complainants?"