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German mayor paid civil servant £60,000 ‘to do nothing’

Bernd Brato, the mayor of the Betzdorf-Gebhardshain municipality
Bernd Brato, the mayor of the Betzdorf-Gebhardshain municipality

A German mayor has been accused of paying a civil servant £60,000 a year to do nothing for half a decade.

Investigators looking into the case allege that the unnamed civil servant earned €350,000 (£300,000) over five years but did not do any work during that period.

They were employed by Bernd Brato, the mayor of the Betzdorf-Gebhardshain municipality. Mr Brato is now at the centre of a probe led by the Altenkirchen district in western Germany.

The civil servant was employed in a role focused on local construction and planning policies, according to German newspaper Siegener Zeitung, which first disclosed the investigation.

Three possible explanations

Authorities are said to be looking at three possible explanations for their lack of work.

The first is that the employee had been deliberately rewarded with a job that required no duties, and the second is that they were placed on a form of gardening leave, possibly as a punishment.

The third possibility is that their existence in the department was simply forgotten about, and that no one noticed for five years.

Mr Brato was at the centre of the investigation as he appointed the employee, German newspaper Bild reported.

According to the tabloid, the civil servant was unlikely to be punished, as investigators believed they likely made themselves available but simply weren’t given any work to do.

The investigation is ongoing and its results will likely be announced at some point in 2024, Siegener Zeitung reported.

The Telegraph approached Mr Brato for comment via his municipality but did not immediately receive a response.

‘The phantom official’

The case appears to have some similarities with that of a Spanish civil servant who did not turn up for work for six years.

Joaquin Garcia, 69, was fined €27,000 (£23,000) after his absence came to light.

Mr Garcia had been tasked with overseeing the construction of a wastewater treatment plant. He denied the allegations and his lawyer said he went into hiding as he had suffered a media “lynching.”

A Spanish newspaper had dubbed Mr Garcia “el funcionario fantasma,” or “the phantom official”.

Mr Garcia said he moved to the water treatment role after being bullied in a previous role, and that once he began there wasn’t any work for him to do.

His friends told Spanish media that he did turn up for work, though not for full business hours each day, and that he spent the time reading philosophy.