This is the conclusion which can be drawn after reading the justification for the discontinuance of the investigation of the so-called “Oak Scandal”, conducted by the police and the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in the city of Brzeg. 7 months after notifying the authorities at the end of July of the current year, the Stop Corruption association received a written resolution, in which public bodies state that “the community authorities were not acting in a harmful way in regard to the interests of the general public”, when cutting down old oak trees near the multi-functional “Orlik 2012” sports ground located near the middle school in the town of Lewin Brzeski.
We would like to remind you about the incident we wrote about on November 5th 2012, where 55 trees were cut down in the municipal park of Lewin Brzeski at the time when the Orlik sports ground was being built. These trees, worth 3 million zlotys, were part of a priceless oak avenue planted by Hermann Thaler (1850-1917) – one of the city’s most acclaimed patrons and owner of the nearby palace which the avenue led to. The cost of the investment was 1.6 million zlotys, most of which the commune received from government funding. In December 2012, the Stop Corruption association, outraged by the cutting down of trees that had managed to survive 2 World Wars, filed a report to the Regional Prosecutor’s Office of Brzeg regarding the possibility of a offence committed by the Commune of Lewin Brzeski. In March the Prosecution Office launched an investigation regarding “the cutting down of trees located at the plot of 613/3 in the Lewin Brzeski area due to the conflict resulting from the construction of the sports ground being built as part of the government programme entitled “My Sports Ground- Orlik 2012”, which possibly took place because of lack of proper environmental assessment in 2012 in Lewin Brzeski, as stated in article 181 paragraph 2 of the Polish Penal Code”. After reading the attached documents, one can conclude that on June 29th of the current year, the Regional Prosecutor’s Office again resolved to discontinue the investigation. The facility was officially opened in March 2013, and Major Kotara stated: “as soon as I found out that there was a possibility of acquiring 840,000 zlotys funding from the Ministry of National Education, I immediately implemented the tasks to make our residents’ dreams about the Orlik sports ground come true. This task required decisive actions, thought-out decisions, but above all- time, which was not on our side, because the project had to be completed by the end of 2012. We made it. Our success was thanks to the positive engagement of the City Council employees and the honesty of the contractor…”.
The notice of the Stop Corruption association also raised the issue of the free handing over of the felled trees to a befriended company of the Mayor of Lewin Brzeski, Artur Kotara. This matter, as we can find out from reading the police reports, was also analyzed by the Regional Accounting Chamber, despite the fact, that this body noticed the incorrectness, which was based on the fact that “the wood gathered from the felling was neither evaluated nor accounted for in the wood deposit. The commune did not account for the amount of wood received, did not estimate its value nor did it admit to including it as part of the assets of the commune, and as a result did not document its expenditure, which violates article 20 of the Accounting Act”- according the police report. The police addressed the Mayor of Lewin Brzeski (of the Polish People’s Party), and accepted his explanation, in which Artur Kotara admitted that “in order to costs related to the loading and transportation of the wood from the felling to the communes wood deposit, we also gave up on adding the wood we gained to the assets of the commune.
This is only one of the issues looked into, in which every explanation of the major stops the vigilance of the police. This is not surprising, taking into account that the chairman of the City Council and the Lewin Brzeski Commune is a policemen employed in the Brzeg police office, and is also the deputy head commissioner of Lewin Brzeski. The policeman who was head of investigating this matter comes from Lewin, and in his private life is the son-in-law of the head of the house of culture in Lewin Brzeski, a subordinate and close friends of Mayor Kotara. The vigilance of the police was also dulled because of the explanation that “the project which was part of the program, “My Sports Ground-Orlik 2013” was negotiated with the Conservator of Monuments of the Opole Voivodship, who in a document from 30.01.2012 sent to the company PS Projekt, which is located in Chróścina, and deals with the technical documentation, did not raise any objections in regard to the planned sports complex in Lewin Brzeski”. In his explanation to the Prosecution Office, the worker of the Department of Monument Conservation stated that when giving his approval, he did not know about the historic oak avenue. What also seems strange is that in January 2012 the company knew about the planned investment, since the commune received the funding for the Orlik sports ground in September 2012. Many questions of this nature were not asked by the police of Brzeg, and it is hard to call the investigation they launched honest or objective. Furthermore, no one was surprised by the speed in which the trees were cut down- a day after the inspection was carried out by the inspector of the County Office, who somehow didn’t any trees of a 450 cm circumference. Trees like this should be regarded as natural monuments- unfortunate the entry procedure depends on the mayor only. It would appear that no one is concerned any longer about the old oaks trees, and one can freely plunder the natural environment, especially if it constitutes part of the German heritage of the area. We will surely return to this issue, because the destruction of 3 million zlotys worth of nature is unacceptable. We cannot not come to terms with the mindless cutting down of trees that are over one hundred years old!