A mayor’s mess
When they mess up, some people come up with really brilliant excuses that almost make you forgive them, just because their creativity is so dazzling.
Others recycle some poor version of “the dog ate my homework”. Such as Birkirkara mayor Michael Fenech Adami. Him who approved a decision to pay (in full) for an employee to read theology at university. And him who received a 5K overpayment and is refusing to return it (read more here: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120611/local/Local-council-paid-for-a-staffer-s-theology-course.423734 ).
His excuses for both mess ups would be met with a contemptuous roll of the eyes even by a primary school pupil. Given that he’s presenting them to an adult electorate, he can be sure that the reactions will be a tad less subtle.
In all honesty, I’d probably be having a good laugh at his justifications if it were not for the fact that we’re talking about a public official who is displaying a worryingly childish attitude.
Let’s start with booboo number 1. Most mortals with a basic sense of decency, in the unlikely event they get overpaid (seriously, how does that happen?) have no qualms about rectifying the situation pronto.
Not so the B’Kara mayor. He is refusing to return money that he knows he has no right to. Guess why? Because “if Franco Debono is still getting paid to be a parliamentary assistant, I don’t see why I should pay back (the money).”
Now, as most of you who follow my posts regularly know, I’ve never been a fan of Dr Debono’s recent political strategy. However, those who think that they can fool the voters into accepting such disgraceful behaviour by dangling the Franco Debono example as precedent should really rethink their methods.
The electorate is not that stupid. Mr Mayor, if you shamelessly inform us that you believe it’s okay to take our money (yes, our money) because other people are doing the same...well, I can only say that your political adviser should not be allowing you to make public statements without supervision.
On to the second booboo and what must be the weirdest company training programme in the history of employee motivation. A theology course that cost the local council – for this, read the tax payers; you and me – the beauty of €2,000.
The mayor is defending this one too. On the basis that “councils were encouraged to invest in furthering their employees’ education”. Because of course, a degree/diploma in religion is just what the local council accounts clerk needs in order to better his performance.
Does the mayor really take us all for fools? Quite naturally, the auditors are having a bit of a heart-attack at the situation. To make the whole brew even more fun, there is also that small matter of tax, erm, “under payment”.
When common mortals do that it’s called evasion. And they’re usually slapped with a lovely fine for their efforts. But it would appear that local councillors are required to pay only as much taxes as they deem appropriate – and the mayor has gone on record saying that he “paid 15 per cent [on mine], and that’s much more than enough”.
As long as his conscience is at peace, who am I to criticise, right?