when will the mayor of Saint-Étienne be dismissed?

Saint-Étienne, like Rome, is surrounded by seven hills. Gaël Perdriau, mayor LR, and his henchmen extend this mimicry with the Eternal City in the worst possible way in an episode that one would think straight out of the Italian series Suburradepicting the corrupt and “no limit” relations between the municipality of Rome, the Vatican City and the mafia.

The sourced and precise investigation by Antton Rouget published by Mediapart since August 26 tells us that Mayor Gaël Perdriau (LR) and his very close entourage – his chief of staff, a deputy mayor and his companion, at least – would have organized a sordid homophobic blackmail based on pirate video to blackmail their running mate Gilles Artigues. It seems that they also misappropriated public funds to finance their kompromat. Ah, and there’s no need to resort to inclusive writing to evoke their predatory practice of power, this story is a matter of men…

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Justice is now seized, eight years after the start of the alleged facts in the winter of 2014. It will share things among the changing versions of the defendants who pass, as the publication of the substantiated revelations of Mediapart , from denial to a confusion of excuses while trying, in passing, to disguise themselves as victims.

The right to privacy is one of the pillars of the rule of law

We could smile at this downright trashy settling of accounts among the reactionaries. But we would be wrong, because this case reflects an extremely serious breach of the basic rules of our Republic.

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Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks on his honor and reputation”. Article 9 of our Civil Code has also enshrined this protection for more than half a century in these terms: “Everyone has the right to respect for their private life.”

If the right to privacy should not be invoked indiscriminately – to cover up gender-based violence or harassment, for example –, it must on the other hand be considered as an essential right. All the more so at a time when technical means of filming, recording and broadcasting are in common use, and where online harassment is taking on worrying proportions. The intimate is at the heart of our human condition. Intimacy is not a need to hide the unmentionable but a need to preserve what is deeply constitutive of each of us: sexual orientation, gender identity, emotional life, belief, philosophy, personal or family history , health…

Only the person concerned is entitled to reveal what he sees fit about his own privacy. It is, for example, the spring of coming out, voluntary but complex act – everyone can measure it – which consists in revealing a small part of intimacy, in this case homosexuality, in order to live it in broad daylight, more serenely, for oneself, and facing to society, which has long buried it in thick denial.

The right to privacy is one of the conditions of individual freedoms and one of the pillars of the rule of law. It is this pillar that Messrs. Perdriau, Gauttieri, Kefi-Jérôme and Rossary-Langlet have clearly shaken. Almost a month after the first revelations of Mediapart, if the mayor discards by dismissing his chief of staff, he remains in office, just like his deputy mayor.

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Only the government can restore order in the shambles of Saint-Etienne

The law does not allow a municipal council to dismiss a mayor or deputy mayor it has elected. Only the government can therefore intervene to restore order in the shambles that takes the place of a municipality in Saint-Étienne, by dismissing the mayor and his deputy, as the HES association suggests in a press release. The Council of State recently specified that this disciplinary sanction “is independent of criminal proceedings”.

The practice in this area, since 1946, once the episode of collaboration has ended, has varied over time. Of the twenty or so dismissed mayors that can be found in the press, the reasons vary: in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, a mayor’s opposition to colonial wars or a call for disobedience could be grounds for dismissal. In 1952, the communist mayor of Lorient (Morbihan) Charles Le Samedy, was dismissed for having worn his tricolor scarf during a demonstration. If such a sanction had taken place today, we would have witnessed a famous carnage in the ranks of the elected “Les Républicains” who crowded all scarves out to the “Manifs pour tous” between 2012 and 2014! Let’s move on. Since the end of the 1960s, it is generally for serious breaches of the obligations attached to municipal functions that mayors have been sanctioned in this way.

By dismissing the mayor of Saint-Étienne and his deputy, the government would send a clear signal on the need to respect the privacy of each and everyone. One question then remains: Gérald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior, and Caroline Cayeux, Minister Delegate in charge of Local Authorities, will they choose to defend the rule of law or protect their ex-“comrade” from the party, an approaching time to join the Borne government?

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Photo credit: Olivier Chassignole / AFP