Charleroi: criminal judgement against mayor in slander and harassment at work case
Monday, 05 February 2018
The Charleroi Criminal Court is due to give its judgement on Monday in a slander, harassment and forgery case. The Mayor, the Alderwoman for Education and the former Municipal Secretary for the Châtelet City Council, as well as a number of civil servants working for the Director for the School for Social Advancement, are all joined as opposing parties. All of the accused have pleaded for their respective acquittals in the case.
In 2008, there was a redundancy decision against the Director, Marc Meurice. He had been accused of misappropriating subsidies and having also forged enrolments on IT courses, so as to be paid such amounts. Once exonerated, he had then taken proceedings, considering his redundancy improper, and based around a political conspiracy.
In 2011, the Mayor Daniel Vanderlick (PS) the Alderwomen, Marie-France Toussaint (PS), and the Municipal Secretary had been accused of slander, moral harassment, and harassment at work in relation to the Director, as well as forgery and using forged documents with the intent to defraud. They are suspected of having abbreviated two sets of minutes of the municipal college, in relation to the conflict which placed them in opposition to the Director.
Only the Alderwoman for Education was appearing in court today for slander, moral harassment and harassment at work. Three civil servants are also being prosecuted for forgery and using forged documents with the intent to defraud.
Before the Criminal Court, Me Jean-Claude Derzelle, Counsel for Marc Meurice in the civil case, explained that his client had been the victim of a genuine hell. The experience had included permanent harassment proved by medical evidence, and relentless defamation, at the same time as others were hiring him for his organisational abilities.
The Deputy Public Prosecutor, Olivier David, speaking on behalf of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, considered that everything that the defendants were accused of, as regards harassment and forgery, was well established. However, he argued that the time elapsed justified suspending passing sentence.
Me Adrien Masset, the lawyer for the Municipal Secretary argued that there was nothing to criticize the Municipal Secretary for as regards forgery: she purely carried out the contents of college meetings – nothing more. Although there is an issue of a unanimous decision, whilst it was consensual by those involved, there was no intention to cause harm. Neither is there an issue of slander to be heard in respect of the Municipal Secretary’s case. She merely received confidences from the individuals for whom she was responsible at the time. The harassment allegations have also been challenged, even though there was a professional ‘major conflict’ between the Director and his hierarchy.
Me Philippe Herman, the barrister for Mayor Vanderlick, mentioned that originally subsidies for IT training had been requested from the FPS Interior. In the end, the training was given to officials other than those initially anticipated. Regarding slander, if it had occurred, the facts may possibly now be statute-barred. However, it is particularly the case that exchanges between members of the municipal college in camera, cannot be considered as slander. Lastly, there is no evidence to substantiate the harassment claims.
Me Marc Preumont, Defence Barrister for Alderwoman Toussaint, has also pleaded for her acquittal, stating that there had been no harassment on her part, but ‘blind and activist actions’ by the Director.