Two Kohtla-Järve deputy mayors suspected of corruption have refused requests from Mayor Toomas Nael to resign by a deadline which had been set for this Tuesday. The opposition in Kohtla-Järve is now planning to dismiss the entire city administration.
"I will not bow to pressure, whether it comes from the mayor, the press, other political forces or anyone else," said Evelyn Danilov, deputy mayor for social affairs Evelyn Danilov, who is one of the accused, in a media statement.
"I do not plead guilty to the charges against me. In the Republic of Estonia, there is a presumption of innocence and one cannot be found guilty merely on the basis of suspicion," she added.
The other member of the city administration under suspicion, Deputy Mayor for Economic Affairs Vitaly Borodin, could not be reached for comment by ERR's Russian-language news service, however, Mayor Toomas Nael said that Borodin had, in principle, also refused to resign.
"Evelyn Danilov informed me of her decision in writing. I spoke to Borodin some time ago. He said he would probably follow that decision," Nael told ERR's Russian-language service. "My comment is, that I received a response from both and I don't want to comment on that. It is their right, their opinion, which they have expressed to me in their replies. Now we have to think about what to do next," the mayor said.
On Tuesday, October 4, police in Kohtla-Järve detained 11 people on suspicion of corruption; businessman Nikolai Ossipenko, eight members of the Kohtla-Järve City Government and Council, and two further people related to Ossipenko.
Among the detainees were Borodin, Danilov, as well as Tiit Lillemets, chair of the city council. All eleven detainees have now been released pending trial.
At a press conference in Kohtla-Järve City Hall on Monday, Nael announced a press conference that he had asked Borodin and Evelyn to hand in their resignations no later than 12 noon on Tuesday.
"I have two options to consider. The first is the one I offered today to my deputy mayors, and the second is that the whole city administration resigns," said Nael. As recently as Friday, Nael did not consider resigning to be a sensible option on the basis of the information available. However, he said, that in light of additional information received since then, resignation would now be "a good and natural step."
The mayor said he deplored all forms of corruption and added that the scandal which broke last week, was seriously damaging the Kohtla-Järve's image and reputation.
Asked on Tuesday when a decision about his next move would be taken, Nael said it would certainly take less than a week.
Eduard Odinets, chair of the opposition Social Democrats group in Kohtla-Järve, said Nael's appeal to his subordinates was unconvincing. "It was not convincing at all. If two of the three deputy mayors turn out to be suspects and do not feel guilty, then there can be no confidence in the mayor, under whose watch all this has happened," Odinets said.
"We will start collecting signatures to call for an extraordinary session of the council where we will express our censure of the entire city administration. I think we must also censure the chair of the council," Odinets said.
Editor: Michael Cole