The Rules were formulated by a Committee with the participation of representatives of the Attorney General, Ministry of Interior and the Local Government Center. The Committee was established after it was found that a number of publically elected officials in the Local Authorities had not, in the opinion of the Attorney General, acted in accordance with the required norms of conduct in the sphere of conflict of interests. Incidental to an examination of the question of whether to bring a criminal prosecution against them, an argument was postulated at the time that the elected public representatives are not aware of such norms of behavior and it was therefore decided to assign the Committee the task of formulating the rules and publishing them in order to bring them to the general attention of the public and of those serving as elected officials in the Local Authorities. The Rules were approved by the Directorate of the Local Government Center initially for a period of two years, and subsequently without any time limitation.
The Rules were intended for ease of familiarization with the laws relating to conflicts of interest and constituting a quasi synopsis or "mini-codification" of the conflicts of interest laws in relation to elected public officials in the Local Authorities as prescribed in the principal legislation, in subsidiary legislation, and in decisions of the Courts.
The Rules provided for the establishment of an Advisory Committee (hereinafter in this document - "The Committee"), whose function it is to provide assistance to elected public officials by means of a professional expert opinion. The Committee expresses its professional opinion in response to enquiries from elected officials who pose questions as regards their own conduct and management of affairs, but they also address enquiries on the part of other parties (elected officials, legal advisors, auditors as well as those resident within the jurisdiction of the Authorities concerned) who wish to obtain a professional opinion about elected representatives. After the formulation of a professional opinion it is distributed to those parties concerned with the matter.
The Committee operates in accordance with Rule 6 of the Rules. This document includes a reference to legislation in the sphere of conflicts of interest of elected officials of the Local Authorities, a professional opinion of the Committee as well as extracts from judgments pronounced on the issue of conflicts of interest.
As previously mentioned the Committee is an advisory body, its professional opinions can, in appropriate cases, form the basis for the taking of steps by the duly empowered parties under the Law in order to prevent conflicts of interest (and, inter alia, the Ministry of the Interior is charged with supervision of the Local Authorities).
Upon receipt of an enquiry as to a concern about a conflict of interests, the Committee's practice is to request the response of the member of the council concerned. The enquiry is forwarded to him in the exact form in which it is received, provided that the applicant agrees to this, or in the name of the Committee when the applicant prefers not to be identified. Additionally, the Committee contacts the legal advisor of the Local Authority in which the person concerned is serving, as well as other parties, in so far that there is a necessity for clarification of the questions that are the subject of discussion.
The Committee's opinion is of course sent to the applicant but it is first and foremost forwarded to the person about whom the complaint has been made and copies are also sent to the Head of the Authority in which he is serving, to its legal advisor and to other relevant parties in so far as this is necessary, as the case may be.
It is important to note that the Committee is an advisory body. Accordingly its opinions per se are not binding on the elected officials. Nevertheless they are of importance and carry weight because of the composition of the Committee which combines not only representatives of the Local Government Center and the Regional Councils Center, together with representatives of the Legal Advisor of the Ministry of the Interior and the Attorney General, whose professional opinion binds the Government and all its branches. "The Rules" provided that an Advisory Committee would be established, whose function would be to assist elected public officials by providing them with a professional opinion. The Committee expresses its opinion in response to enquiries and following the formulation of such opinion it is distributed to the relevant parties.
We are indeed concerned with an Advisory Committee, but reference to the Rules as formulated cannot be viewed merely as a recommendation. The professional opinion of the Committee has ramifications in principle for all publically elected officials in the Local Government sphere on whose behalf this Advisory Body was established.
Accordingly, reliance of the respondents on the professional opinion is a fundamental principle and the Municipality cannot complain that it relied on these Rules. Furthermore, an argument cannot be accepted by a petitioner to the effect that this is "an opinion in general terms addressed on behalf of one professional party to another professional party". It should be borne in mind that the Committee is not an investigative or review body. It was established in order to assist elected public officials to operate lawfully and accordingly it deals, generally speaking, solely with questions that have implications for the future. Additionally, it is the Committee's practice to forward enquiries for handling by other parties where it believes that such parties can handle them more beneficially (for example where they have relevant documents at their disposal). Finally, the Committee does not consider applications in relation to questions being dealt with simultaneously at judicial instances.
The Committee in general terms, uses as its own guideline inter alia professional opinions given in the past on various issues. It should however be emphasized that it is empowered from time to time to change its opinion on the various issues, this being inter alia as a result of legislative changes, new case law, the accumulation of experience regarding the implementation of arrangements prescribed in the past, reactions of various parties referred to it, and so forth.
In this document no mention is made of the names of elected officials or names of the relevant local authorities unless they have been mentioned in the Court decision, the reason for this is so as to avoid, in so far as is possible, an unnecessary infringement of the privacy of those parties whose affairs have been discussed before the Committee.
Over the years the Committee has issued a large number of opinions. Opinions considered to be of general importance were published in two circulars issued by the Director General of the Ministry of the Interior (dated February 24, 1986 and April 27, 1987). In 1993 a more extensive file record document was distributed (that also included the decisions published in those circulars). In 1999, an updated file was distributed which also included Case Law updates and new opinions issued by the Committee.
In 2007 the Opinions File Document was again updated and posted on the Ministry of Justice internet website in order to render the subject matter more accessible to the public. The material includes opinions having general implications or in principle for all elected Local Government public officials. The opinions are as regards enquiries on matters that are characteristic of local government or those raised frequently before the Committee, even if they are not concerned with matters of principle.
Currently, upon termination of the term of office of the last Chairman of the Committee, Malchiel Blass and the commencement of the term of office of the new Chairperson, Dina Zilber, we are posting an initial update for the file on the internet website, which includes new case- law and Opinions issued by the Committee during the last 5 years. We intend to post a further update later.
Composition of the Committee:
The Committee Chair is a representative of the Attorney General. As previously mentioned, the last Chairperson was Mr. Malchiel Blass, Deputy Attorney General (Advice), and the new Chairperson is Ms. Dina Zilber, she having replaced him in this position. The remaining members of the Committee are: Mr. Motti Sasson, the Mayor of Holon, Ms. Nili Erez (Soroker), the Legal Advisor to Netanya Municipality; Mr. Ariel Gamliel, the Auditor of Ashkelon Municipality; Mr. Nati Bebiyoff, Senior Deputy to the Legal Advisor of the Ministry of the Interior.
Also invited to meetings of the Committee as observers are Advocate Noa Ben Arieh who acts as the Legal Advisor to the Local Government Center, Mr. Israel Spitzer, Director of the Salaries and Manpower Branch of Local Authorities in the Ministry of the Interior. A representative of the Regional Councils Center began participating in meetings of the Committee in 2008. This function was performed by the Late Mr. Yitzhak Yeshua (Shaya) as Director General of the Regional Councils Center until his death in 2012. Mr. Yeshua made a major contribution to the work of the Committee and was much loved by all its members. May his memory be blessed.
Advocate Yael Achila and Advocate Re'ut Londin coordinate the work of the Committee. Advocate Harel Goldberg of the Advice and Legislation Department also participates in the deliberations, he being in charge of the handling of the Local Authorities and Religious Councils Sectors.
Advocate Yael Achila has prepared this file document and the update. Ms. Sari Melamed acts as Secretary to the Committee, and has dedicated a considerable amount of work and thought to the day to day work of the Committee as well as being of considerable assistance in posting the updates on the internet websites. Ms. Rachel Dehan has also invested a considerable amount of work in having the opinions posted on the internet website for the first time.
Ms. Tana Shpintz, a former Deputy Attorney General (Civil Law), headed the Committee that formulated the Rules and also headed the Advisory Committee from the inception of its operation in 1984 until her retirement from the public service at the end of 2004. Ms. Shpintz was one of the jurists that laid both the theoretical and practical foundation for an examination of questions of conflicts of interest, both in the context of her regular work in the Ministry of Justice over the years and also in an article that she wrote in conjunction with Ms. Varda Lusthaus on the subject (Uri Yadin's book, Vol. 2). Publication of the opinion files began on the initiative of and at the direction of Ms. Shpintz.
We are most grateful to her for all these efforts.