Officials in the Khoni Municipality who had been found guilty retained their positions unlawfully
Officials and public servants of the Town Hall and Town Council of the Khoni Municipality retained their positions unlawfully for two months, despite the court’s judgment of conviction against them.
The investigation against Gela Chogovadze, First Deputy Mayor, Zaza Rukhadze, Chairperson of the Commission on Economy and Property Management at the Town Council, and four public servants of the Town Hall and Town Council (the municipality has not provided the identities of the public servants on the basis of the argument of protection of personal data) was launched in 2016, and the Tbilisi City Court rendered a judgment of conviction against them in August 2018, though they were only dismissed from their positions on September 25, 2018. The case concerned the transfer of a land plot with an area of 5,372 sq meters in the village of Kinchkha, Khoni Municipality, to Nino Karosanidze, the wife of the then Deputy Head of the Municipal Administration, Otar Kashibadze, in December 2015.
The investigation that was launched in 2016 on the charges of fraud, forgery of documents, and neglect of official duty ended in August 2018 with the conclusion of a plea bargain between the parties. According to information released by the Prosecutor’s Office, the real estate which the wife of Otar Kashibadze, the former Deputy Head of the Municipal Administration, had obtained as a result of an unlawful act was confiscated; Zaza Rukhadze and Gela Chogovadze were put on probation for two years and were fined GEL 3,000; and the public servants were fined GEL 2,000.
During the investigation, the officials and public servants of the Khoni Municipality retained their positions. Moreover, Gela Chogovadze held the position of the Head of the Service of Economy and Management and Accounting of Property at the Municipal Administration of Khoni at the time when the investigation was launched, and later he was promoted to the position of Deputy Mayor of Khoni. In addition, Gela Chogovadze and Zaza Rukhadze retained the powers of a member of the Commission on the Recognition of Ownership Rights, despite the fact that the investigation underway concerned the inappropriate exercise of their powers as members of this Commission.
According to Articles 43 and 59 of the Organic Law of Georgia – The Local Self-Government Code, as well as Article 107 of the Law of Georgia on Public Service, entry into force of a court’s final judgment of conviction against an official of a city/town hall and city/town council, as well as against a public servant, constitutes the grounds for their dismissal from their positions. In this case, the said individuals were not dismissed immediately after the court rendered its judgment, which is a violation of the law.
In accordance with Paragraph 5 of Article 132 of the Law of Georgia on Conflict of Interest and Corruption in Public Service, ‘If a public servant has been detained or arrested or if criminal prosecution is being conducted against him/her, he/she shall inform the head of the respective public institution of this fact.’ However, the said persons applied to the relevant agencies for dismissal only after the fact was covered by the media, which is confirmed by a public statement posted on the official website of the Khoni Municipality. The dismissal of these individuals didn’t depend on their application, because, according to the law, the court’s judgment constitutes mandatory grounds for their dismissal.
Officials of the Town Hall and the Town Council failed to respond to the aforementioned fact in an appropriate and timely manner, which caused unlawful spending of budgetary funds because the persons who had been found guilty by the court received the remuneration unlawfully from the day the judgment of conviction entered into force until their dismissal.
In addition, on September 29, 2018, the Rustavi 2 TV station aired a recording whose authenticity is yet to be established. In the recording, the former Deputy Mayor, Gela Chogovadze, and the Chairperson of the Town Council, Valeri Bakhtadze, discuss the possibility for the individuals found guilty by the court to retain their positions. The content of the recording might contain signs of a crime committed by current officials of the Khoni Municipality. Accordingly, we call upon investigative bodies to investigate the circumstances mentioned in the recording in a timely and effective manner and to inform the public of measures taken to establish the authenticity of the recording.