According to the information of the Kutaisi Today information agency’s website, two employees ofthe Terjola Municipality and one employee of Terjola City Council were appointed by political parties as members of the District Election Commission. The information agency emphasised that the Terjola Municipality and City Council employees have violated the Law of Georgia on Public Service as public servants.FactCheck
interviewed the Head of the Terjola Municipality, Temur Japaridze, who stated that the Municipality and its employees had not violated the law. Mr Japaridze stated: "We made this decision because these individuals are certified by the election administration. What can we do? There are no other certified personnel in the district. They will receive salaries from only one job and they have been on unpaid leave from us since 10 June 2016. This does not violate the law."Terjola Municipality employees Ketevan Kezevadze and Guram Kokhiashvili, together with Terjola City Council employee, Maka Asatiani, were appointed to the 49th
District Election Commission in the middle of June 2016.
Ketevan Kezevadze has been working as a Senior Specialist at the Internal Audit and Monitoring Service of the Terjola Municipality since August 2015. Guram Kokhiashvili has been a Chief Specialist at the Economy and Property Management Service since March 2015. Both of them were appointed to their positions as a result of a competition process.
Ketevan Kezevadze took unpaid leave from 10 June 2016 until 1 November 2016 whilst Guram Kokhiashvili took his unpaid leave from 16 June 2016 until 1 November 2016.
Ketevan Kezevadze represents the Georgian Dream political party in the District Election Commission and Guram Kokhiashvili serves as a representative of the Industry Will Save Georgia party.FactCheck
took interest in whether or not the aforementioned individuals had the right to take the unpaid leave for such a period of time and work in another public service.
The Law of Georgia on Public Service regulates the functioning of the public service together with the rights and obligations of employees, codes of conduct and other procedures.
Article 64 of the Law of Georgia on Public Service concerns the incompatibility of office. Point 2 of Article 64 states: "A public servant may concurrently perform other paid work, taking into consideration the restrictions set forth in the Constitution of Georgia and other legal acts."
The Election Code of Georgia in turn specifies the rules for appointment of public servants in election administrations. According to Article 24 of the Election Code of Georgia, a public servant may be appointed as a member of a Precinct Election Commission. In this case, he is temporarily suspended from his permanent place of employment and voluntarily takes a paid or unpaid leave.
As clarified by the Head of the Kutaisi Branch of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Giorgi Santuriani, the same rule applies to District Election Commissions, too. This is because the law does not forbid a public servant from working at a District Election Commission or from taking leave provided that this happens upon a voluntary basis.
One shortcoming, however, was detected in Terjola. Guram Kokhiashvili was appointed to the District Election Commission on 15 June 2016 whilst his leave started from 16 June 2016. A lawyer from the International Society for Free Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Tatia Kinkladze, clarified that this is not a significant violation of the law provided that the legal act of the individual’s appointment to an election commission states that his responsibility starts from the day after instead of the day of appointment. However, it is preferred that the dates for issuing the legal act and that of assuming responsibility be the same.Chair of the Terjola 49th District Election Commission, Nazi Siradze, in her interview with FactCheck
stated that before 15 June 2016, Guram Kokhiashvili was nominated as a member of the District Election Commission by his party without a legal act as prescribed by the Election Code of Georgia. The Terjola District Election Commission was notified about his appointment on 15 June by e-mail. Ms Siradze confirmed that Mr Kokhiashvili started to exercise his responsibility in the District Election Commission from 16 June 2016.
In regard to the duration of unpaid leave, the Law of Georgia on Public Service states that a public servant can take an unpaid leave for not more than one year (Article 41, Point 2). Therefore, the giving of a five month-long unpaid leave to the Terjola Municipality employees does not constitute a violation of the law.
Municipality employees were appointed to the District Election Commission as representatives of political parties which, therefore, will serve the interests of these parties. As these aforementioned public servants are currently not exercising their duties as public servants, the law allows them to do so.
In regard to Assistant City Council Chair, Maka Asatiani, she did not take an unpaid leave. On 8 June 2016, she took her paid leave and resumed her duties on 8 July 2016. Ms Asatiani was nominated to the District Election Commission by the Republican Party. Until 25 July 2016, her name was on the list of District Election Commission members published on the website of the Central Election Commission.Deputy Chair of Terjola City Council and a representative of the Republican Party, Sopo Buskivadze, in her interview with FactCheck
stated that the appointment of Maka Asatiani to the District Election Commission had not violated the law because the appointment was made during the period of her leaveof absence. Shortly thereafter, the party replaced its candidate and Ms Asatiani was no longer a District Election Commission representative. The Central Election Commission simply failed to act in a timely manner to remove her name from the list of District Election Commission members published on its website. ISFED’s Tatia Kinkladze stated that this fact is not a significant violation of the law.
The Law of Georgia on Public Service and various articles in the Election Code of Georgia determine that a public servant is allowed to have another paid job during his paid or unpaid leave. Further, public servants are not forbidden from being appointed as representatives of different parties at the District Election Commission. One of the most important requirements for District Election Commission membership is the possession ofa certificate confirming the individual as an election administration official. A public servant is also allowed to take a one-year unpaid leave. In the cases of the appointment of Terjola Municipality employees to the District Election Commission, these requirements were met as prescribed by the law.Taking into account all of the aforementioned, FactCheck concludes that the statement of the Head of the Terjola Municipality, Temur Japaridze, is TRUE.