Supreme Court upholds Kohtla-Järve mayor's graft conviction, deputy takes over
Mayor of the north-eastern city of Kohtla-Järve, Jevgeni Solovjov, who has been found guilty of graft, stepped down on Tuesday. Under the city’s bylaws, his duties will now be performed in an ad-interim capacity by Deputy Mayor Ljudmilla Jantsenko, regional newspaper Põhjarannik reported on Thursday.
The matter of replacing Solovjov had not been discussed at Monday’s meeting of the city council because it was only on that day that the verdict entered into effect. On Wednesday seven members of the council issued a call to gather for an emergency meeting in four days at the latest to release Solovjov from office.
The chairman of the council, Riina Ivanova, said she didn’t believe that the new mayor could be elected in the same meeting.
“Nobody has made any proposals at this point. I'm waiting for them,” Ivanova said, adding that the new mayor was likely going to be elected in the council meeting of Sept. 28.
Ivanova ruled out the possibility that she might be a candidate for the office of mayor herself.
MP Valeri Korb, chairman of the local section of the Center Party, voiced appreciation of the job done by Solovjov during his 13 years as mayor. “He and his team did a good job. I’ve got nothing to reproach him with,” Korb said.
Asked about his opinion about the punishment handed down to Solovjov, Korb said that he didn't find that Solovjov’s conviction was fair, and that it was a pity that the Supreme Court did not accept his appeal.
Solovjov, 68, has said he intended to retire.
According to the Commercial Register, Solovjov has been a member of the Center Party since 2003.
The verdict handed down to Solovjov and former Kohtla-Järve deputy mayor Jüri Kollo in October 2015 became final on Monday, when the Supreme Court decided not to consider the two men’s appeals.
Solovjov and Kollo were found guilty of graft on Oct. 28 last year. The court found Solovjov guilty of embezzlement, competition related offenses, and offenses related to breach of the duty to maintain integrity, as well as falsifying and using falsified documents, and the abuse of trust. The court handed him a conditional jail sentence of five years with a probation period of another five.
According to the indictment, the board member of a company that provided services to Kohtla-Järve presented to the city government false information between September 2006 and August 2009 about maintenance, service, and cleaning work performed. The reports were accepted by the city government in exchange of the payment of invoices. Besides, acceptance and survey records concerning the works were falsified retroactively, along with the budget presented by the company to the city government to conceal the unlawfulness of the payments in excess of the budgeted amount.
In 2009 the Kohtla-Järve council conducted tenders to find companies to perform various works and services, in the course of which the mayor allegedly misused his position by granting favorable terms to businessmen he knew, including two companies.
With a population of more than 37,000, overwhelmingly Russian-speaking Kohtla-Järve is the fifth biggest city of Estonia.