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Head of City Hall’s Environmental Protection Dept. Resigns Over Teen’s Death in Vake Park

On 19 October, following a session of the Tbilisi City Hall Government administration, Giga Gigashvili, Head of City Hall’s Environmental Protection Department, resigned from his post and emphasized that he feels “moral responsibility for the tragedy that happened in Vake Park.”

Notably, Gigashvili’s deputy is one of the nine persons who were charged yesterday in connection with the death of the 13-year-old girl, who was killed after she was electrocuted in a fountain in Vake Park on 13 October. Gigashvili’s deputy has been charged with neglect of official duties resulting in the death or serious injury of a person and faces 2-5 years in prison.

“As the head of the department, I feel morally responsible for the official actions of my deputy, [and] towards all the employees,” Gigashvili said, adding that he will fully cooperate with the investigation “in order to establish the truth of what actually happened on the day of this tragedy and answer all of the questions which currently exist among the public.”

Gigashvili has led City Hall’s Environmental Protection Department since 2017.

Tbilisi Mayor’s Address

Prior to Gigashvili’s resignation, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze stated that the question of “what happened on October 13” must be answered by the investigation, with which City Hall is “closely” cooperating.

Noting that it is “painful” for them that an employee of City Hall is among the defendants, Mayor Kaladze underscored that “everyone is responsible to and equal before the law.”

Drawing attention to his personal responsibility in the matter, Mayor Kaladze said that if “even a small shred of his guilt is revealed,” he is ready to answer for it before the law. “The law cannot be too lenient or too strict towards anyone,” he said.

Mayor Kaladze also addressed the “completely astonishing statements” made by his opponents and noted that “it is unfortunate that there are still people in Georgian politics who try to use even such an immense tragedy for their own political purposes.”

In that context, he responded to the “campaign [and] uproar” which emanated from the public after photos emerged of the Mayor meeting with Devi Mezurnishvili, the Vake Park gardener who rescued the teens, as well as one of the injured teenagers, saying, “this, friends, is my debt and my obligation, not only as the capital’s Mayor but first of all, as a person, as a man, [and] as a father of four children.”

The photos in question emerged on 17-18 October and show Mayor Kaladze meeting with the gardener, as well as one of the injured teenagers. The Mayor gifted the boy a football and a football shirt from Kaladze’s days as a professional player. Large parts of society criticized Mayor Kaladze for the photos, with some believing that they are part of a PR campaign to change the narrative placing blame on the Mayor.

Mayor Kaladze likewise stressed that he will visit and meet everyone he is grateful to and “those affected by this tragedy.” “I will definitely meet Megi Bantsadze [the citizen who provided first aid to one of the injured teenagers on the spot] who saved Lazarus… I will thank everyone who contributed to saving the children, every doctor, every nurse, every person.”

Mayor Kaladze also apologized for not visiting the third teenager injured on 13 October and promised that he will visit him in the coming days.

The Tbilisi Mayor instructed relevant agencies and companies under City Hall to inspect all the completed works across Tbilisi which were examined by MshenInspect, the company accused of falsifying an inspection report on the Vake Park Fountain.

“Unfortunately, we cannot turn back time, and today the only thing that each of us can do is to do everything we can so that such a tragedy never happens again,” Mayor Kaladze stressed, adding that “the sound of children’s joy should be heard in Tbilisi, Marita’s memory obliges us to this end.”

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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