VBL subsidy debacle: All board members resign

VBL subsidy debacle: Board members resign with immediate effect – report burdens VBL

Five out of five VBL board members resign – three of them with immediate effect. The city council, which expected an orderly transition to a new board, is “surprised and disappointed” about this decision, which was apparently made at short notice.

A VBL bus at Lucerne train station.

Image: Urs Flüeler / Keystone (Lucerne, May 14, 2018)

  • An investigation report comes to the end: those responsible for the Lucerne public transport company (VBL) did not behave properly.
  • A brief report, which was prepared on behalf of the transport company, comes to the conclusion that the VBL management has not made itself a criminal offense.
  • The Lucerne City Council accepts the Board of Directors’ offers to resign. Three members of the board of directors are stepping down with immediate effect, city councilor Martin Merki is also withdrawing from the board of directors.
  • The Lucerne city council is “surprised and disappointed” about the immediate resignation of the board members. Because actually they agreed in advance that there should be an orderly and constructive transition to the new VR. Apparently the management is now reporting temporarily to Finance Director Franziska Bitzi Staub. They feel “it is their duty to avoid a state of no leadership”.
  • The Lucerne City Council waived a complaint. That is a matter for the Lucerne Transport Association (VVL) or the Federal Office of Transport (BAV). The VVL examines criminal steps.
  • The VBL are said to have received excessive payments in the amount of 16 million francs.

(brake / sma) Chairman of the Board of Directors Yvonne Hunkeler, Silvana Beeler Gehrer and Jon Bisaz are stepping down as members of the VBL’s Board of Directors with immediate effect, while Vice-President Markus Lötscher is stepping down for professional reasons. This is intended to weaken the “broken relationship” with the Lucerne city council in particular. The city council has accepted the resignations that were offered in September, “regardless of the results of the investigation report,” as it became known on Friday morning at a media conference.

City councilor Martin Merki is also withdrawing from the VBL board of directors. The reason for this is that the investigation report shows that the role of the city representative in the VBL administrative board has not been clarified enough. The report advises to critically question the sitting of members of the city council and points out that, according to more recent doctrine, «as a rule, sitting with representatives of the executive branch should be avoided». It is unclear when Merki will leave the board of directors. The entire city council decides on the time. The city council does not accept the resignation of VBL director Norbert Schmassmann, as this is the responsibility of the new board.

The background to the dispute is the allegation that the VBL unjustifiably received 16 million francs in taxpayers’ money. At the beginning of March, the FOT accused the VBL of Having broken the subsidy law. The VBL subsequently refused to pay the money to the subsidy provider VVL. The company demanded the approval of the Lucerne City Council, which is the sole shareholder of VBL. The city council, however, refused to give this consent.

Investigation report: those responsible for VBL have behaved “improperly”

The Investigation report, which was made public on Friday, gives for the first time a comprehensive insight into the background of the 16 million demand that the VVL directs to the VBL. This contains quite a bit of explosive. Main finding: Those responsible for VBL had “not behaved properly”. The holding structure was established with the declared intention of “getting profits dry” in order to meet the dividend expectations of the city of Lucerne. The imputed interest should also have served this goal.

The VBL criticized the report for a long time. “The report is a disappointment, one-sided, prejudicial, incomplete and in no way fulfills the city council’s demand for complete clarification,” says Yvonne Hunkeler, President of the Board of Directors. Unclear facts are in most cases interpreted to the disadvantage of the VBL, but mostly in favor of the BAV, VVL and the city of Lucerne. ” A brief report that lawyer Stefan Maeder prepared on behalf of the transport company came to the conclusion that the VBL management was not liable to prosecution.

The city now wants to set up a transitional board of directors “as soon as possible”. This will clarify with the VVL and the BAV whether and how compensation was received in the years 2010 to 2017 and should be repaid. The VVL sees itself confirmed in its demand to reclaim the 16 million francs from the VBL. He is now also examining criminal action.

The business audit commission of the Lucerne city parliament also commented on the report. She recommends filing a complaint against those responsible in order to clarify any criminal liability.

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