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Minister dismisses mayor of Ikšķile

Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development Artūrs Toms Plešs (For Development/For!) has signed an order suspending the chairman of Ikšķile County Council Indulis Trapiņš (Green Party, pictured) for several suspected violations, the minister told LTV's 'Morning Panorama' news show February 26.

The order to suspend Trapiņš will take immediate effect, Plešs told LTV.

He explained that the decision to suspend Trapiņš was based on a number of detected violations, risks of corruption, inappropriate handling of municipal property, making unilateral decisions related to construction, and concluding one-person contracts. His ministry had been monitoring the situation for several months, he said.

"This decision with regard to the dismissal of Ikšķile council's chairman is based on a chain of clearly-based violations which increase the risk of corruption via unlawful and inappropriate policies involving council property," said Plešs.   

These violations highlight systemic behavior, and "it is my duty to act in the public interest," the minister said. 

Plešs pointed out that head of any municipality, including Trapiņš, "is neither a tsar nor a monarch" and cannot make decisions unilaterally that should be within the competence of the entire council.

Later on Friday Trapiņš indicated to Latvijas Radio that he had not yet read the order in detail, but in January he had refuted the accusations made against him by the ministry. He vowed to fight against the decision and suggested that he had been singled out as a result of his opposition to recent structural reforms in regional administration made by the ministry. 

"The context is definitely the reform of the districts, which Ikšķile has loudly opposed... I will definitely go to court to see whether Plešs or Trapiņš is right,” said Trapiņš.

Back in October 2020, LTV's 'De Facto' investigative show probed a story about unauthorised construction works involving members of Trapiņš' close family and the asphalting of an access road by a private company.

Now the council has to decide how to organize its work in the future and elect a new council chairman.

Ikšķlile is a small town in central Latvia some 30 km from Rīga, with a population of around 8,000. Trapiņš has been its municipal head since 2009, first as a member of the Unity political party, but latterly switched his allegiance to the Green party (which is rather different in character to Green parties in most other parts of Europe, being more of an agrarian conservative party than a left-of-center environmental party).

The move against Trapiņs comes at the end of a momentous week for Latvia's mayors, some of whom have wielded signifcant political and economic influence for many years. Earlier in the week Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs was sent to prison for five years after a twelve-year trial on charges of corruption. Lembergs too was the target of a 2012 ministerial attempt to remove him from his position, but it proved ineffective.  

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