IT IS AMAZING that Paphos Mayor Savvas Vergas, who is under police investigation and is at the centre of a host of allegations of corruption, has not yet deemed it necessary to step down. He has defiantly resisted calls for his resignation as the revelations of his misdeeds have piled up insisting on carrying on his duties as if nothing had happened. It is a display of the same arrogance that led Vergas to run Paphos municipality as his personal business, believing that he was accountable to nobody.
Currently, he faces charges for sending threatening text messages and he is also expected to be charged for the ‘charity concert’ the municipality had organised last summer, without any of the receipts going to charity. The police are also investigating contracts signed by the Paphos Sewerage Board, which is under the mayor, after allegations about the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of euros. The Attorney-General is also looking into a municipality contract for the building of pavements that was awarded by the mayor without a tenders’ procedure at a price per square metre that was considered very steep.
But the one case over which Vergas should have immediately stepped down was his sanctioning of the building of a tennis court, next to his house, to which there was direct access from his house. Worse still, the court was built on a publicly-owned, green area without securing the necessary permit. Could there be a more glaring case of abuse of power for personal benefit than this? Vergas, being a Diko member and a Paphite, is an old-school politician who believes the laws for ordinary people do not apply to people in power who are entitled to do as they please.
We had thought that this old-fashioned political arrogance was on the way out, but it seems that in Paphos it has not budged. The truth is that Paphos councillors and their parties turned a blind eye to Vergas’ activities, saying nothing until Politis started reporting the misdeeds of the mayor. For instance how could the building of a tennis court on public land, without a permit, next to the mayor’s house pass unnoticed for so long? Why had Paphos councillors said nothing about the charity concert until it was reported in the papers? Was this because councillors in Paphos expect a mayor to abuse his power and saw nothing wrong with what Vergas had done?
Now, even his own party has abandoned him. His leader, Nicholas Papadopoulos, according to a Diko statement, yesterday called Vergas and urged him to resign. It was about time Diko – a party that specialises in taking the moral high ground – withdrew its support from the mayor. But Vergas has not yet had his final word. He has called a news conference on Monday morning to announce his intentions, but it is very likely that resigning would not be one of them.