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Alba EPA executive director’s dismissal confirmed by court verdict
Sebeş/ Romania 8 March 2009
The Alba Court of Appeal has rejected via a final verdict a complaint submitted by Mr Vasile Todea, the director of the Alba Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The plaintiff had contested a sanction imposed upon him by the National Agency for Environmental Protection (ANPM). The sanction was imposed due to Mr Todea’s conflict of interest in resolving requests and procedures initiated by SC Kronospan. The court’s decision maintains as legal the initial decision taken by the ANPM to dismiss Mr Vasile Todea who via his company SC LUXOR Ltd. SRL had commercial, profit-making contracts with SC Kronospan, a company which on the other hand has been requesting environmental permits from the Alba EPA. ‘The Independent Center for Environmental Protection’ (ICEPS), an NGO based at Sebes had intervened in the case to support ANPM. The NGO’s members were the authors of the initial complaint that shed to light Mr Todea’s conflict of interest.
Kronospan România is the largest producer of wood based panels in South-Eastern Europe and a branch of the multi-national company Kronospan. In Romania SC Kronospan is operating in 3 different locations: Sebes, Brasov and Constanta. SC Kronospan’s activities in Sebes and Brasov gravely violate applicable legislation for environmental and construction permitting, and have caused significant negative impacts on the health of local people and the environment, due to the emission of toxic substances used for the production of the wood panels (i.e. formaldehyde).
For its industrial activity in the town of Sebes Kronospan is currently carrying out several environmental authorisation procedures that involve the Alba EPA and whose director, Mr Vasile Todea, a public servant, is bound by upholding Law 161/2003 for measures to prevent and combat acts of corruption. Mr Vasile Todea who is the EPA’s executive director also is the sole owner of S.C.Luxor Ltd. SRL who amongst others builds and maintains green spaces. A services’ contract between SC Luxor Ltd. SRL and Kronospan for maintaining particular green spaces in the town of Sebes exists as far back as 2005.
According to Art.79, lit a) and c) of Law 161/2003, a public servant is in a conflict of interest if he is in a situation of resolving requests or has to take decisions or participate in the decision making of juridical entities with whom he at the same time has a patrimonial relationship or if his patrimonial interests or those of his wife or first grade relatives could influence the decision which he needs to take within his public function.
In May 2008 several members of ICEPS submitted a denunciation to the ANPM regarding Mr Todea’s conflict of interest in light of his commercial relationship with SC Kronospan. They requested an inquiry and Mr Todea’s subsequent dismissal. As a result of the request the ANPM’s disciplinary commission ordered Mr Todea’s dismissal as executive director of the Alba EPA. The ANPM’s order was subsequently appealed by Mr Todea. ICEPS intervened to support ANPM (1). As a result of the deliberations, the court rejected Mr Todea’s appeal and accepted the NGO’s intervention request.
„The role of a person who occupies the function of Mr Vasile Todea is defined by the legality and correctness of decision making to protect the rights and interests of the citizens to health and a healthy environment. He must also ensure a high standard of environmental protection. Such role can not be assured by a person who is in a commercial relationship with one of Romania’s most notorious polluters”, declared Mr Mircea Matei, president of ICEPS.
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ENDNOTES: (1) File nr. 1352.1/57/2008 at the Alba Court of Apeal.