Police fine former national opera director over sexual harassment claims ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper) director Aivar Mäe.
Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper) director Aivar Mäe. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Former Estonia National Opera (Rahvusooper) director Aivar Mäe has been fined an undisclosed sum after the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) found him culpable in sexual harassment charges.

The fine was issued by the PPA, investigating allegations which first emerged in the media in mid-summer, rather than by a court.

"The PPA made a decision on October 21 regarding misdemeanor proceedings against Aivar Mäe," PPA spokesperson Marianne Ubaleht told ERR Wednesday afternoon.

"In the course of the proceedings, the PPA established proof of sexual harassment, and a fine has been initiated," she went on.

Mäe's lawyer Paul Keres says his client will appeal the decision.

A decision on the appeal, which must be made within 15 days of the decision, will be the responsibility of the courts, ERR reports.

Both the size of the fine and the number of complaints made about Mäe, 60, must remain confidential until such time as the PPA decision enters into force, Ubaleht added.

However, Paul Keres, acting for Mäe, told ERR the sum was not a substantial one.

Keres added that Mäe planned to sue Eesti Ekspress, the investigative weekly which first published the allegations.

Keres also noted that the PPA fine related to a single incident which allegedly took place between 2 and 3 p.m. on June 4 2019, at which point Mäe was neither on the premises of the Estonia Theater in central Tallinn, nor in the vicinity of the complainant, Keres said.

Keres went on to say that the decision did not even get the date right: "If the misdemeanor is recorded as relating to June 4 and then after being addressed in the decision is linked to a meeting on August 6, then something is very messed-up," he said.

Investigation began in late June

The PPA opened its investigation into Mäe on June 26, a few days after the Eesti Ekspress article alleging that Mäe had behaved inappropriately towards women employees at the theater over an extended period of time.

The opera house brought in an external mediator to be made available to staff to talk to, and to observe working practices at the opera house, which comprises two main auditoria - the opera and ballet house, along with a main concert hall.

Inna Toater, chief in investigator at the PPA's city center district, said the authority encourages anyone with reason to believe they are the victim of harassment to approach the police, an area which sorely lacks case law precedent, she said.

"Procedures relating to the section [of the Estonian Penal Code] dealing with harassment are not very common, but we believe that the more of them which take place, the more certain victims will be of approaching law enforcement authorities or trusted authorities in future," Toater said.

"It is understandable that this is an emotionally complex issue, and consequently talking about harassment is difficult for victims, but talking is nonetheless a very important step in putting a stop to disruptive behavior," she went on.

Mäe resigned as opera director in August. His replacement has yet to be announced.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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