Demonstration calls for dismissal of Ogre mayor Helmanis

Take note – story published 1 year ago

A demonstration was staged in Rīga April 20 calling for the dismissal of Ogre controversial and scandal-prone mayor, Egils Helmanis (National Alliance).

Protesters gathered outside the building of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development (VARAM), as Minister Māris Sprindžuks (United List) has the power to remove municipal heads from their position, subject to certain conditions. 

Helmanis has been the source of several recent controversies. As previously reported by LSM, he was responsible for inviting sanctioned Russian oligarch (and Latvian citizen) Pyotrs Avens to display his collection of porcelain at the city's museum, sparking protests, not least from the museum's employees who claim they have been coerced into unethical and potentially illegal activity by the dictats of the mayor.

In response, Helmanis appears to have become even more strident in his relationship with the museum, with several more clashes and online arguments ending up with the bizarre 'sealing' of the office of the director of the Ogre Museum by members of the council, even though such a "sealing" has no legal force, and resembles the sort of legal circus more usually associated with the repressive regime of Russia.

Other controversies involving Helmanis have included and his involvement as an instructor with a vigilante group, and tangles with anti-graft police.

The Delna association, Latvia's branch of Transparency International, is calling on VARAM to respond to the increasingly problematic situation by removing the mayor from office and has sent a letter to government to that effect, alleging that Helmanis and his regular public communications constitute an attempt to intimidate the employees of the municipal council and institutions of the Ogre region.

The director of Delna, Inese Tauriņa, said her organization has extensive information about possible illegal actions in the work of the municipality of Ogre region and its chairman, Helmanis.

"Thanks to brave museum employees, active residents, and civil society in Ogre, we've learned about various violations of regulatory acts and ethical norms, as well as non-observance of the principle of good governance in the Ogre County Council. We are not ready to put up with this and therefore ask the responsible authorities to act, not passively watch. It affects the entire society of Latvia, therefore we cannot accept the answer that this is an internal matter of the municipal council," noted Tauriņa.

Elīna Vikmane, board member of the Latvian Museum Association, said in an interview with Latvian Radio that her organization looks at what is happening from a professional point of view and emphasized that the employees should be treated in a legal manner.

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