Trial in Innsbruck

Rectorate acquitted after controversial job allocation

10.07.2024 16:00

Former members of the rectorate of a Tyrolean university in Innsbruck had to stand trial for deliberately ignoring an applicant for a vacant position. "Not true", the trio defended themselves against the accusations. Everything had been "transparent and correct". The applicant had simply not fulfilled the requirements.

The three defendants had been accused of not admitting an applicant to the hearing or not ranking them first in the recruitment process for vacant positions despite their qualifications. However, the trio was acquitted.

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It is questionable whether the ranking was wrong at all.

Richter Andreas Mair

Judge Andreas Mair justified the acquittal by stating that it was "questionable for the panel of lay judges whether the ranking was wrong at all". This could not be conclusively determined, but in any case no knowing abuse of authority could be proven. "I do not have the impression that the defendants made their decisions for unobjective reasons," said the chairman of the panel of lay judges.

Trial slipped down to a personal level
The public prosecutor had previously regretted in her closing statement that the trial had "unfortunately slipped to an unobjective and personal level". Only the legal justifiability of the Rectorate's decision was in question. "This is a question of assessing the evidence," said the public prosecutor, who called for a guilty verdict. The defendants' lawyers, however, all called for an acquittal. Instead of the dock, the defendants actually deserved the "Golden Medal of Honor of the Republic" for their services, said the defence lawyer of the first accused former rector. The defendants had decided purely on objective grounds: "To assume abuse of office here is beyond good and evil."

Judge Andreas Mair (Bild: Birbaumer Christof)
Judge Andreas Mair

Witness qualifies earlier statements
The first witness to be heard on Wednesday was a member of the service committee. The man qualified earlier statements to the police, according to which the rectorate "did not want" the applicant who was ultimately rejected. He could not say whether the rejection was due to unobjective reasons. However, he referred to a unanimous decision by the committee, according to which the applicant would have fulfilled the requirements better than the one who was ultimately chosen. However, the committee only examined the existence of publications required for the application, not their quality. During the hearing, the defendants' lawyers questioned the relevance of the rejected applicant's publications.

A second former member of the service committee spoke of a "strained relationship" between the chair of the service committee and the rectorate. "I never noticed any targeted tailoring of job descriptions," said the witness.

"Must criteria all fulfilled"
Finally, the applicant who was ultimately rejected was called to the witness stand. He "did not know" why he was rejected. The witness explained that he considered himself to be more suitable: "I definitely fulfilled the mandatory criteria." He also felt he had an advantage when it came to other desired skills and could also point to "numerous additional qualifications". With regard to the publications in question, he pointed out that the medium was a "very young journal": "A low ranking doesn't mean anything." Contrary to the statement of one of the defendants, these could be found in any case. In addition, he could refer to "impeccable service evaluations" and had also submitted these. According to witnesses, he was "surprised" that people had made derogatory comments about his appearance as a strength athlete, as he had not had any problems with this before. With regard to alleged problems in the building, there had been "not a single conversation with the rectorate".

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He had no professional experience.

Der Erstangeklagte über den abgelehnter Bewerber

The first accused former rector was questioned at the start of the trial in May. The applicant had simply "not fulfilled the requirements", said the former rector. This concerned the scientific field, for example: "He had no professional experience." The second and third defendants, both former vice-rectors, also pleaded not guilty and essentially confirmed the statements of the first defendant. However, the then Equal Treatment Officer and member of the Staff Committee supported the accusations of the prosecution. Another witness - an applicant who had been brought forward at the time - had not noticed any irregularities.

In their opening statements, the defendants' lawyers denied the allegations and denied that there had been a deliberate abuse of authority. The application procedures had been "transparent and correct". In addition, not only professional but also personal suitability was required for the positions in question, the lawyers said in unison.

Up to five years in prison for abuse of office
The case dates back to the period from 2020 to mid-2021. According to the indictment, the person concerned, who was allegedly ignored in the recruitment process, had fulfilled all the legal requirements set out in the job advertisement and was better qualified than other applicants. Nevertheless, he had not been considered. The crime of abuse of office is generally punishable by a prison sentence of six months to five years.

This article has been automatically translated,
read the original article here.

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