Tomeu Cifre, Pollensa's mayor

Tomeu Cifre, Pollensa's mayor.

04-12-2020Curro Viera

Justice of the Peace, Juez de Paz or, depending on your linguistic preference, Jutge de Pau. The JP, wherever the office is found, has fairly similar functions. In Spain, a JP and a justice of the peace court have jurisdiction in municipalities where there are no courts of first instance or instruction, something which therefore applies to virtually all Majorca’s municipalities. These courts are typically served by lay judges. They aren’t professional judges, and they take care of resolving minor issues and provide a service to the citizens regarding the complexities of the administration of justice.

So far, so straightforward and uncontroversial, rather like the appointment of JPs. This is not a matter that typically arouses much discussion, so much so that few beyond a close municipal circle would be likely to pay the appointment of a new JP much attention. However, there is always Pollensa. If you were to put money on any municipality in Majorca generating a full-blown political row over the appointment of a JP, then Pollensa would be a very good bet. The town hall has once more demonstrated its seemingly unerring capacity for creating a barney, and it all has to do with Martí Ochogavia. His name bears some similarity to that of the mayor, Tomeu Cifre Ochogavia, although they are not related. But where the opposition are concerned, family is not the issue; it is the fact that the new JP and the mayor are mates.

One says mates, as the main association between the two would appear to have been the support Martí gave Tomeu at the last municipal election, a fact that Marti doesn’t seek to hide. He doesn’t see why this should be a reason for his not being appointed JP. Nor does he see any great issue arising from a time when he was a councillor (second deputy mayor in fact) and faced a motion of being “reproved” by a full council session because of alleged “administrative irregularities”. Marti was councillor for municipal services, and he admits that his department spent more than its budget. Day-to-day operations of the department, he accepts, were managed without taking account of the budget.

Nevertheless, his conscience is clear and - let’s face it - this was a few years ago now; well, eleven anyway. In November 2009, there was unanimous approval of a motion to establish a committee to monitor contracts and payments. This arose from a complaint led by the Alternativa that Marti had voted in favour of payments to companies carrying out electrical and gardening services for the town hall; these companies had direct family links. The law for contracting obliged any councillor with family ties to abstain from voting. Marti didn’t, because he said that legally he was unaware of this.

As things turned out, his vote hadn’t been decisive, a fact which led the ruling administration of the time to reject the reproval motion brought by the opposition. And among opposition councillors who brought the motion was Tomeu Cifre. This has certainly not escaped the attention of the current opposition who refused to vote when Marti’s appointment was brought before the most recent council meeting. They left the building temporarily, and he was voted in unopposed, the opposition - Junts, Alternativa and Podemos - having made clear their intention to take the matter to the Balearic High Court.

The appointment of Marti Ochogavia first came before a council meeting back in July. This was shelved because there was lack of consensus and also because of a need to resolve, in the mayor’s words, “legal doubts”. Bringing the appointment back to the council, Tomeu Cifre intimated that matters had been sorted. They clearly hadn’t been, as the opposition made precisely the same points that they had in July. Above all, the appointment was the return of an election favour, Marti Ochogavia having been a “close collaborator of the mayor during the last electoral campaign”, who was now being “handpicked” as JP.

Marti insists that he wasn’t appointed by Tomeu Cifre alone, as four parties voted for him. That is true, but the four parties - Tots, the PP, UMP and El Pi - form the ruling administration and are therefore inclined to all vote together. He has spoken of the fact that there were another thirteen candidates, none of whom he knew, and of a certain surprise that they had put themselves forward. They were “young” and it’s not as if being a JP is lucrative; there is no payment. He accepts that there will be those who might be better than him for the post, but he is now retired and he is well-known in the municipality, having been a councillor for sixteen years.

I’m not questioning his merits as a JP, but the whole affair hasn’t been well handled. There is a perception of lack of independence because of political ties, and Tomeu Cifre must surely have appreciated this. Appointing a Justice of the Peace should not be a matter that degenerates into a political fight, but this is how things too often appear to be in Pollensa. And a final observation. In 2009, Marti Ochogavia said that he was legally unaware of the conditions regarding the voting for companies being contracted by the town hall. I don’t doubt his merits, but he is now going to need to be more legally aware.

Comments

To be able to write a comment, you have to be registered and be logged in.

* Mandatory fields

Currently there are no comments.