RIGA- The embattled AivarsLembergs, who awaits trialon charges of bribery andmoney laundering, was strippedof his duties as mayor ofVentpils by a City Council decisionon Aug. 16.The Ventspils municipal pressservice said the local authority hasreceived a ruling from the prosecutor'soffice setting additionalrestrictions on Lembergs while histrial on fraud charges continues.The conditions included a ban onholding the posts of Ventspilsmayor and chairman of the town'sport, the largest in Latvia.
The press office explained thatthe decision is only a formality followingthe request by the prosecutor'soffice to have Lembergsremoved."The decision of the prosecutor'soffice does not foresee anypossibility to object to it 's we haveto follow it," a representative ofthe Ventspils press service said.The decision does not technicallyremove Lembergs as mayorbut simply relinquishes him of hisduties. There is currently no meetingscheduled on the Ventspils CityCouncil agenda to discuss officiallyremoving the mayor from hispost."According to the law onmunicipalities, it is stated thatwhen the mayor is not available ornot able to execute duties the firstor second vice mayor should takeover," the press office said. Theduties of acting mayor will henceofficially fall on first deputy JanisVitolins, who is reportedly on vacationuntil the end of August.
The decision came after commentsmade by President ValdisZatlers that it was "unethical" toallow Lembergs, who is beingcharged with several felonies, tomaintain his posts.Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitisweighed in on the topic on Aug. 20,saying that he would have resignedif placed in a similar situation."If I had such a situation, Iwould have stepped aside. I wouldprove my innocence and thenreturn back to the office," he saidin an interview with the BalticNews Service.The issue had also previouslybeen raised with the minister ofregional development and localgovernment, Aigars Stokenbergs,who said that he was unable todepose the mayor without proof ofwrongdoing from the prosecutor'soffice.
Lembergs will still be able tocontest the decision in court. If thecourt rules in his favor then hewould be able to take up his dutiesagain.Lembergs is currently underhouse arrest at his property inPuze. He already spent threemonths in a Riga jail before beingplaced under house arrest, originallyat his Ventspils apartment.Throughout the period of histrial, Lembergs has protested hisinnocence and refused to relinquishhis mayoral responsibilities.He retains a considerable level ofpublic support in Ventspils.The press office noted that thedecision will not have muchimpact on the workings of the citygovernment. "Everything is working,nothing is broken, and allduties are being fulfilled. Nothinghas changed in everyday life," aspokesperson said.