The Court of Appeal in Bulgaria’s second-largest city Plovdiv ruled on January 24 to overturn the suspension from office of mayor Ivan Totev, ordered by the District Court on January 16 in connection with the criminal charges he is facing.
The District Court’s order was made at the request of the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office which said it wanted Totev out of office so that he could not interfere with witnesses in a case in which he is charged with abuse of office.
The Plovdiv Appeal Court’s decision was welcomed with applause from members of GERB, outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s party, who came to support Totev. The mayor twice has won office in scheduled elections on the ticket of GERB and is the party’s leader in the city.
The Appeal Court found that Totev had co-operated with the State Agency for National Security and investigators regarding the allegations against him and his official post did not impede the investigation.
It was not justified and lawful to claim that he was influencing witnesses and there was no evidence that he had been doing so.
Reacting to the court’s January 24 decision, Totev said that he was satisfied and that his conscience is clean.
Earlier, the leader of the minority party Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria in Plovdiv, Yordan Ivanov, called on Totev to step down as chairperson of the Plovdiv 2019 Foundation organisation preparations of the city to hold the European Capital of Culture title two years from now. The party claimed that the fact that Totev was facing criminal charges was ruining the image of the city.
Bulgaria’s prosecutor’s office said on January 10 that it had charged Totev with mismanagement in connection to an investigation into the construction of a new zoo in the city.
The prosecution’s statement said that Totev exceeded his authority by directly negotiating with the chosen subcontractor instead of calling a public procurement tender. Additionally, Totev allegedly broke the law by starting the negotiations without an approved investment decision on the project, nor a cost-benefit analysis, a compliance with regulations report or a construction permit.
Doing so resulted in financial damages of one million leva, or about 511 000 euro, for Plovdiv city hall. The prosecutors allege that Totev’s actions were wilful and meant to benefit the subcontractor company. Totev denies wrongdoing.