S.e since the disaster night in July, grudges against Jürgen Pföhler, the district administrator of the Ahrweiler district, have been brewing in the Ahr valley. “For me, this is the greatest example of all-round political failure,” says a citizen from Ahrweiler. Another sentence he drops is not quotable. In view of this mood, even their own party friends openly oppose Pföhler in the district assembly. This Wednesday they want to approve a resolution that the SPD will introduce. In it, Pföhler is called upon to “clear the way for a new beginning”.
The CDU parliamentary group had already published a similar declaration in the circle on Monday evening. It speaks of a necessary “new start in terms of personnel”. It can be seen that “there were failures and mistakes in the past and on the day of the disaster”. From this “the necessary conclusions can be drawn”. The investigations of the public prosecutor’s office on the questions of “who to what extent” was responsible for the operations management on the evening of the disaster and whether this was “culpable in the legal sense” are logical. “From our understanding, however, one cannot exercise an office when criminal investigations are ongoing.”
The Koblenz public prosecutor’s office started investigations against Pföhler and another member of the crisis team on August 4th. It is about the suspicion of negligent homicide and bodily harm by failure. When the chief public prosecutor, Harald Kruse, spoke at the beginning of August about the initiation of the investigation, he recalled that the “perpetrator of all of this” was primarily “nature or fate”. “That is how a detective put it, and that is certainly true, and that should not be forgotten in all that I am about to tell you.” In essence, the issue is that the population was warned too late and areas affected by the water were evacuated too late.
“We want a new political start”
District Administrator Pföhler announced in a press release on August 10th that everyone involved in the operation “acted to the best of their knowledge and belief”. The day after, he called in sick, according to the district. Since then, Pföhler has been represented by the First District Member and Member of the State Parliament, Horst Gies (CDU). In view of the investigation and the fact that Pföhler, according to the CDU parliamentary group, “will no longer be able to exercise his office for the foreseeable future”, the CDU parliamentary group concludes: “The move by District Administrator Dr. Jürgen Pföhler, no longer taking up his office, was therefore necessary and inevitable. ”CDU district manager Michael Schneider does not want the declaration to be understood as a demand for resignation. “We want a new political start,” he told the FAZ
It is clear, however, that, according to the understanding of Pföhler’s party friends, there cannot be a new beginning with him as district administrator. It can be assumed that the resolution formulated by the SPD will receive the necessary simple majority in the district council this Wednesday. A coalition of CDU (17 seats), Free Voters’ Group (six seats) and FDP (three seats) governs the circle. The largest opposition faction is the Greens with nine seats, followed by the SPD with seven seats. The Greens parliamentary group wants to introduce a motion to vote out, as its chairman Wolfgang Schlagwein said. If, however, as is expected, he does not find a majority, his parliamentary group will at least agree to the resolution of the SPD.
The SPD neither demands a resignation nor insists on a voting procedure. Because that would be time consuming. “For us it is now important that there is no endless discussion: is he coming back or not?” Says the SPD parliamentary group leader and Bundestag candidate Christoph Schmitt. It is about the “appeal to save everyone the complicated process of voting out”. For a voting procedure, the district council would first have to decide to initiate such a procedure with a simple majority. Two weeks later, two thirds of the MPs would have to decide on the procedure. In a primary election, the citizens would vote on whether the district administrator should go. At least 30 percent of the citizens who already have enough to do with the flood damage would have to take part. If they were voted out, they would have to elect a new district administrator within three months.
The open formulation of a new beginning could give the district administrator the opportunity to take early retirement. When asked whether he was considering that, Pföhler’s press office of the FAZ did not answer. On the question of whether he was considering resigning, it was said: “He has announced that he will not resign.” Pföhler is 63 years old and in his third term as district administrator. If, however, he does not move by the end of September, the SPD wants to call for a voting procedure. Before the district assembly meets again at the beginning of October.