Current and former Tallinn mayors hit with supervisory authority penalties

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Centre).
Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Centre). Source: ERR

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Centre) is to appeal a decision by the Political Parties Financing Supervision Committee (ERJK), which states that he had infringed electoral law in publishing what amounted to political advertising, ahead of the 2017 municipal elections. In a separate case, a former Tallinn mayor, Tõnis Palts, has also received a second penalty from the commission, relating to debts connected with the 2015 general election campaigning.

The pieces relating to Kõlvart's case appeared in Stolitsa, the Russian-language version of Pealinn, a free paper published by Tallinn City Government.

The ERJK has ruled that the pieces were neither in the public interest nor related to local government tasks, and may be in violation of the Political Parties Act 1994, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

The breach would also constitute the misuse of public funds for electioneering purposes, it is reported.

The ERJK thus issued a precept for the return of funds used in the advertising to the city's coffers, a total of just over €1,000, plus a penalty of €500.

The ERJK had taken on board Kõlvart's earlier responses to the notices, but says it did not find any substantive reasons to call off its procedures and has overruled Kõlvart's objection.

Kõlvart told ERR that he intends to appeal the decision.

"When taking into consideration the sum requested in the precept and appealing the decision in court, it is important to keep in mind that the ERJK is not a team of experts, but rather a committee dominated by representatives of other political parties," Kõlvart, who is due to appear on ERR current affairs broadcast "Otse uudistemajast" on Wednesday morning, said.

Penalty notice issued to Tõnis Palts

A second ERJK penalty notice concerns a former Tallinn mayor, Tõnis Palts (Isamaa).

The commission says that as of Sept. 30 last year, Palts owed a total of €9,348 to three legal entities, in respect of the 2015 Riigikogu election.

According to ERR's online Estonian news, one of the creduitors, OÜ Saaremaa Raadio, had tried in vain to recover debts of €1,435 from Palts. A second creditor, OÜ Lääne Elu, noted that Palts had declared the expenses to an NGO, called Saarte Heaks, which has subsequently been liquidated. The third party, OÜ Senat Marketing, declined to comment on the case, it is reported.

In December 2015, the ERJK made an enquiry into costs declared by Palts and their circumstances, relating to the 2015 election, which as of Jan. 30 this year remained unanswered. The commission then issued a €500 penalty to Palts, which was paid in June, but the precept itself has not been complied with as yet, leading the ERJK to issue a second penalty of €1,500 for non-compliance.

Palts, who was Tallinn mayor 2004-2005, declined to comment when contacted by ERR.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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