Opposition deputies in Kohtla-Järve have started coalition negotiations in the wake of a corruption scandal which engulfed the majority of leading city government figures and coalition councilors in the eastern Estonian city. So far, the potential new coalition has 10 people assembled out of a required 13, while the opposition has tabled no fewer than six motions of no-confidence.
Leading opposition councilor Eduard Odinets (SDE) said after Monday's sitting that: "We will continue the so-called consultations, and we will hold them with three parties, namely the Social Democrats, the Center Party and the representatives of the Restart electoral alliance."
"I do not know at the moment where we will end up with these. I really hope that we will be able to form a new coalition in Kohtla-Järve without the people who have been nominated suspicions," Odinets, who is also an SDE MP at the Riigikogu, continued.
Council chair Tiit Lillemets (Center) who is one of 17 people now under suspicion of corrupt activities mainly involving the issuing of contracts to private sector companies providing municipal services, rejected the charges stated in the motions of no-confidence, including one that he had tried to silence opposition deputies.
Lillemets said: "I can't say how I have silenced the opposition everyone has been treated equally and everyone has had their say. There have also been heated arguments, but when people - council members - talk to each other, they still have to be called to order at some point, wouldn't you say?"
The motions of no-confidence were submitted at an extra-ordinary council sitting held Monday (see gallery) and pertained to deputy council chair Maria Merkulova (Progress Kohtla-Järve electoral list), three councilors and committee chairs: Anton Dijev (Center), Deniss Veršinin (Center) and Jaanek Pahka (Restart Kohtla-Järve electoral list), and mayor Toomas Nael (Ühtne Jõhvi electoral list; the motion against Nael was submitted by a smaller number of opposition deputies, totaling seven), as well as in Liilemets and in the Kohtla-Järve city government as a whole.
The motions will be discussed at a next sitting on October 27.
Nine out of 25 councilors are under suspicion, along with two deputy mayors and several city employees, along with local businessman Nikolai Ossipenko, who in effect runs the city in terms of the types of service tenders noted above.
The other suspects are business associates of Ossipenko, while the suspected activities include the giving and taking of bribes, influence peddling, violation of public procurement regulations and the falsification of documents.
While mayor Nael has not been declared a suspect, his deputies, Evelyn Danilov and Vitali Borodin, persuaded him to go back on tendering his resignation last week, he said Monday.
Editor: Andrew Whyte