An individual appealed a municipality’s decision to purchase a property and claimed that the sale should be cancelled. As a result of the appeal and the processing time in court, there was a risk that the purchase would not be able to be completed. The then chair of the Municipality’s Executive Board contacted the individual to arrange a meeting. The individual stated that the chair urged him to withdraw the appeal. The chair denied this and stated that the purpose of the meeting was only to provide some information about the purchase which he had received from the seller.
According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the investigations do not provide a clear answer regarding what was said at the meeting. What is clear is that the chair informed the individual that the seller did not intend to proceed with the sale if the municipality assembly decision did not obtain legal force by a particular date. It is also clear that the individual was under the impression that the chair was trying to make him withdraw the appeal.
In view of the fact the individual appealed the decision and claimed that the sale should be cancelled, the Parliamentary Ombudsman has difficulty understanding why the chair wanted to relay the information from the seller at the meeting, if the purpose was not to make the individual withdraw the appeal. It is evident there was a risk that the chair’s actions could be interpreted in that way.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman considers that the chair acted in breach of the requirements of objectivity and impartiality in the Instrument of Government and criticises him for this.