The High Court of Justice Wednesday is scheduled to hear a petition seeking to oust Ramat Gan Mayor Zvi Bar, who faces grave corruption charges.
Bar, mayor of Ramat Gan for the past 24 years, has refused to resign, even though he has been indicted on suspicion of accepting bribes, breach of trust, fraud, money laundering and obstructing justice.
By law, a local authority head is not required to step down unless he is convicted of a crime deemed to be one of moral turpitude, although the city council has the authority to remove him. At the behest of the High Court, the Ramat Gan City Council met last month to debate whether to force Bar out, and decided not to do so at this stage.
The petition was filed by city councilman Avi Lilian, who argues that Bar cannot remain in his post given the serious allegations against him and the fact that he will now have to focus on his legal defense rather than on city business.
Bar rejects this argument. In an updated response he submitted to the court last week, his attorneys, Navot Tel-Zur and Yaron Lipshes, argued that there are serious problems with the indictment filed against Bar and that the city council saw no reason to depose him. They also noted that Bar must be presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
What’s more, the crimes Bar is accused of committing allegedly took place before the last municipal elections in 2008, and Bar was reelected mayor even though the public knew that police were investigating these allegations, the attorneys wrote.
The two attorneys also warned the court against setting a precedent of deposing a mayor who hasn’t been convicted of any crime.
“Under these circumstances, and particularly given that the city is being properly run, there is no reason to shake up the city,” the two wrote. They added that in any case, municipal elections will be held in only six months, and at that point Ramat Gan residents will be able to decide the issue for themselves.