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Council members refuse to hand in RAI courtesy card

9 February 2008 - ZuiderAmstel VVD party leader Pim Hallensleben refuses to hand in the ‘courtesy card’ he received from the RAI exhibition centre. The council’s chairwoman, Marije Cornelissen (GroenLinks), says accepting the card constitutes a breach of the district’s integrity code.

For years, the RAI has been sending local party leaders a card providing free access to exhibitions. According to the district’s integrity code, council members are not to accept gifts worth more than 45 euro and must give these to the district. Access to exhibitions at the RAI typically costs 15 to 20 euro.

At a council meeting on 22 January, Cornelissen asked the party leaders to hand in their RAI cards. Noortje Smit (VZAB) refused, arguing the card’s worth does not exceed 45 euro as long as she uses it only once. She further said that she wants to keep the card in order to keep informed of what goes on at the RAI, a centre of considerable economic importance to the district.

Gerrit Herders (formerly Socialist Party and now ZAS) has not yet decided what to do with the card, but considers GroenLinks’ questions about the issue ‘nosing’. Incidentally, he says he has never used the card. “I might as well throw it into the waste paper basket”.

VVD’s Hallensleben refuses to hand over his card to the district and says he has told them that it is none of their business what he does with it; ‘so that’s my answer to you too’. He acknowledges that it may be better for council members not to accept gifts from institutions that are affected by their decisions, but insists that his integrity is something that concerns only himself.

He does not think that council members have an obligation to be open about such issues: ‘that would be turning this into some sort of police state’. The district’s integrity code says that council members must be open and accountable, both internally and to citizens and organisations.

At the January council meeting, Cornelissen said she had asked the municipal Integrity Office for advice. They would have suggested collecting the cards, returning them to the RAI and asking them not to send such cards to council members anymore.

The ZuiderAmstel district frequently has to make decisions that affect the RAI. Last year, it approved the construction of the Expo Foyer, an expansion that is the core of a 100 million euro upgrade of the exhibition centre.

Photo: Amsterdam RAI


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