The municipal administration in Sevlievo hid the names of 28 municipal councilors and officials who traveled to Nice for “exchange of good practices” and they copied their reports from each other.
At the end of April this year 28 municipal employees and councilors from Sevlievo were four days in one of the most luxurious resorts on the French Riviera – Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. The trip was for “exchange of good practice with representatives of the executive and legislative authorities in Nice”. After arriving in Nice, the Sevlievo municipal employees understood about a high-level event in the main municipality, so their only one workshop was held in the small town hall of the resort town of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.
Eight days after returning home, there was a brief announcement for the visit – of 17 lines, with a photo taken in front of the Rockbury-Cap-Marten Municipality without representative of the hosts. The announcement said that the delegation was “welcome by the first Deputy Mayor and Deputy Chairman of the City Council, Richard Cauketty” and the meeting ended with “expressed intention of mutual assistance”.
Two months later the names of the employees and of the councelors, included in the delegation for “exchange of good practices“, are strictly kept secret. This became clear after the Sevlievo administration provided, under the order of the Law on access to public information, access to the reports of each of the twenty-eight seconded, in the copies of which the names and the positions were carefully erased.
The reports – with minor differences
What the 28 Sevlievo Municipal employees have done during the four-day trip?
“I took part in an official workshop in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. During the meeting, issues related to the provision of services to citizens, municipal administration activities and lawmaking of the local parliament were discussed. Good practices have been exchanged in different directions … “. All 28 reports start in this way.The matching, of the phrases below explaining that the exchange of practices focused on normative documents and activities in administration, public services, order and security, maintenance and protection of infrastructure, development of tourism, is up to commas.
In some of the reports there are minor stylistic differences – in some reports it is written: “Duscussed were opportunities for future cooperation”, in others: “Intentions were expressed for future contacts and cooperation”. One seconded person observed “interinstitutional interaction in municipal activities”, another witnessed the “interaction between the different institutions in carrying out municipal activities”.
( The full texts of the reports can be found in the attached file – dokladi_nice)
Through sightseeing to accumulation of good practices
All members of the delegation have reported: “I took part in the program proposed by the company that organized the exchange and I visited the cultural and historical sights of the city of Nice.” From this it should be clear that sightseeing trips and visits are treated as gaining experience because, according to the trip order, the official trip has the task of “Exchange of experience in the municipality of Nice, France”.
Why none of the reports contains information about specific knowledge that everyone has acquired during the trip, there is no way for us to know. Because of the erased names in the copies we have, we rather guess who of the deputy mayors have added two sentences to the report matrix, referring to their field of activities.
Daily allowances for participation
At the end of each report it is specified that the traveler has received a certificate of participation in the exchange. From the French or the Bulgarian side, it is not clear. However, this is irrelevant because the certificate is “for participation”, i.e. it was for everyone. Like the daily allowances – for the four days of “foreign experience” on the Cote d’Azur, each of the seconded received 140 euros, i.e. 35 euros per day.
After clarifying what the municipal employees from Sevlievo have done for four days, two of them Saturday and Sunday, on the Mediterranean coast, the question remains why the names of the members of the delegation are so stubbornly kept hidden from the media.
Personal data and overriding public interest
According to the Secretary of Sevlievo Municipality, the names of the persons included in the delegation are personal data and can not be provided. The two names of Deputy Mayors and Municipal Councilors of Sevlievo can be downloaded from the Municipality’s website. And in the official announcement of the trip to France, circulated through the same website, it was stated that the delegation included the four deputy mayors and the secretary of the municipality. This makes no sense for the secretary’s refusal to disclose the names of the employees. Nor is the stubbornness for hiding the names of the councilors, since the same message had a photo of the delegation.
And if these considerations are not convincing enough, we leave to the Municipality of Sevlievo to become acquainted with a decision of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Bulgaria, according to which “the protection of personal data for persons holding public state positions is much lower than the protection of the the personal data of other citizens” /decision on constitution case 14/2011). It is not to neglect the overriding public interest in the trip of the Sevlievo municipal employees to France which trip was the subject of dozens of media reports and publications. And the interest of society is good to be satisfied because it is only in this way to ensure the necessary transparency and accountability that the people with authority owe to those whose money they spent to “gain experience” four days on the coast of the French Riviera.
There may be something good coming out of this trip – judging by the trip reports, counselors and employees have envied consensus and coincidence in the assessment. If they harness it in favor of decisions important to Sevlievo and its citizens, they will certainly receive public approval instead of the suspicion that there is something rotten behind the secretly wrapped tour to France.