Tuesday, February 19, 2008

In the spotlight: Czeslaw Jerzy Malkowski

The Mayor of Olsztyn has caught national attention amid media accusations of his involvement in a sex scandal in Olsztyn's City Hall.

According to daily Rzeczpospolita, Malkowski may have been sexually harrassing female members of staff for years and there is a claim that he sexually assaulted a pregnant woman. The mayor denied all allegations and threatened to sue the journalist who broke the story.

Media reports have suggested that local politicians knew about the alleged offenses for some time, but an investigation into the accusations only began after the recent media attention. The case was looked at first by the Prosecutor's Office in Olsztyn and then tranferred to Bialystok for the sake of greater objectivity. The prosecutors possess circumstantial evidence, including pictures and recorded phone calls, but it's not certain whether this evidence is admissible in court. The media has suggested that this evidence points to Malkowski's guilt. The mayor, for his part, has responded by casting doubt on the Prosecutor's evidence, saying it's simply not his voice in the recordings, for example.

The scandal has been aggravated by the fact that the Prosecutor's Office in Bialystok sent a list featuring the names of the mayor's accusers to Olsztyn's City Hall in a request for the women's files. Addressed to the office rather than a particular person, the list found its way onto Malkowski's desk. Although legally justifiable, the prosecutor's handling of the delicate matter has been described by many as inept.

In the meantime, Civil Platform (PO) MPs from the Warmia and Mazury regions have revealed they are considering staging a referendum in Olsztyn that would result in the Mayor's removal from office. The referendum would be valid if at least 30 percent of those eligible to vote were to participate.

Born in 1950, Malkowski belonged to the Polish Unified Workers' Party (PZPR) and headed a censorship office in Olsztyn during Poland's communist times. He became mayor of the city in 2001 and was reelected in 2006.