In an unprecedented ruling, the Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court has ordered a former director of the Ra’anana Chevra Kadisha non-profit to return NIS 1.2 million to the organization for funds he received illegally during his employment. On the other hand, his suit seeking a pension amounting to NIS 339,000 was granted by the court.
This is an unusual claim filed by the NGO through attorneys Gideon Rubin and Eran Shoham of the firm Rubin Shmuelowitz against its former CEO, Mr. Yoel Azarzer, who was also deputy mayor of Ra’anana and is a well-known figure in the religious community in Ra’anana.
Mr. Azarzer was arrested by Israel Police Lahav 433 Major Crimes Unit investigators in July 2013 on charges of fraud and bribery in the framework of his duties with the non-profit and the Ra’anana Municipality, although in the end, despite the police’s recommendation to indict him in March 2014, as reported by BeChadrei Chareidim in February 2018, the Central District Attorney’s Office decided to close the criminal proceedings due to lack of evidence.
The findings revealed that the investigation led to the filing of a civil suit by the association against Azarzer to the Labor Court. Azarzer filed a counterclaim to receive payments that he claimed were denied. Last Wednesday, Judge Osnat Brechash-Robovitch of the Tel Aviv Labor Court ruled that Azarzer had seriously and knowingly violated his duty of trust towards the non-profit organization and had taken many illegal financial benefits from the organization’s money.
Among other things, the Court criticized the manner in which the Director-General raised his salary, the manner in which the CEO acted on employee vacations when he allegedly took cash from them to finance hotel vacations, without proper documentation and without the approval of the Executive Committee; the use of two vehicles of the non-profit at the same time, without approval, and contrary to the decisions of the Executive Committee; and he even insured his wife and nine children with health insurance from the organization’s funds without authorization and unlawfully.
The Labor Court emphasized that as part of its position, Azarzer was also a public emissary and a duty of loyalty to the public as well, so that his conduct was an affront of the highest level of severity. Accordingly, Azarzer was required to refund an unprecedented amount of NIS 1.2 to the non-profit organization, and it was also determined that under these circumstances he is not entitled to severance pay, but it was determined that the NGO must release the funds accrued to him in the pension fund in the amount of NIS 339,000.
It should be noted that the association has recently submitted a further claim to the Labor Court against Mr. Azarzer, claiming that it was found that he paid from the organization’s money for private work carried out by contractors at his home. This claim, in the amount of over NIS 1.5 million, is in its initial stages.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)