The Belgian mayor who jumped the Covid-19 vaccination queue in the early stages of the campaign and helped friends and family do the same has been suspended for six months, starting on 1 February 2022.
Mayor Veerle Heeren (CD&V) of Sint-Truiden in the province of Limburg admitted to getting fully vaccinated back in March, even though she was only 56 years old and vaccines were then restricted to people over the age of 85.
A forensic audit revealed that she also helped friends and family members skip ahead of her municipality’s most vulnerable people in order to get inoculated against the coronavirus, at a time when it had claimed the lives of over 28,000 Belgians.
“The events took place at a time when our society was in full crisis and at a time when the trust of citizens in the government had to be safeguarded as much as possible,” Flemish Minister of Home Affairs Bart Somers said.
“A mayor cannot abuse her position in order to have herself and people around her vaccinated prematurely.”
Somers made the decision to suspend Heeren based on a hearing, the governor’s disciplinary report and Veerle Heeren’s own statements during the town council meeting of 10 May 2021.
“Notwithstanding some mitigating circumstances, Veerle Heeren as mayor committed a proven disciplinary offence by having herself and some people around her vaccinated early. A mayor has an exemplary function,” the Minister said in a statement.
Somers asked Limburg Governor Jos Lantmeeters to launch a disciplinary investigation into the early vaccination of Veerle Heeren and some people in her immediate surroundings back in May.
The minister says the charges have been proven and show the required seriousness to be considered “gross negligence.” Heeren does not dispute the materiality of the facts.
If the councillors of Sint-Truiden judge that Heeren cannot be mayor after the six-month suspension concludes, they can submit a constructive motion of no-confidence.