Former Freiburg finance director Georges Godel divulged internals. Criticism rained down. Now he draws the consequences.
The allegations are steep: violation of official secrecy, violation of collegiality, abuse of trust. Former State Councilor Georges Godel (centre) from Freiburg caused quite a stir with the publication of a book. Now he is retiring from public life: the 69-year-old is stepping down from his position as administrative chairman of the Freiburger Verkehrsbetriebe TPF and withdrawing from the board of directors of the Freiburger Kantonalbank.
Georges Godel was accompanied by the journalist Jean-Marc Angéloz for four years as Councilor of State. The result is the book “Secrets et confidences d’un président”, which means something like “the secrets and confidentialities of a president”. It consists of a series of interviews in which he gives a glimpse behind the scenes of the political leadership.
Reminiscent of Hollande’s book in France
The book about Georges Godel is reminiscent of the book “Un président ne devrait pas dire ça…”.
The nearly 700-page document documents private conversations with the French President at the time, François Hollande, over several years. Journalists Gérard Davet and Fabrice Lhomme covered President Hollande for five years and published the book in 2016. It made waves in France and is believed to be one of the reasons Hollande did not run for another term.
Georges Godel says, for example, that he criticized the way the Freiburg HFR hospital was handled in the State Council. The government would have tried to hide problems and dress them up: “I don’t like to hide things,” he is quoted as translated.
He also made statements about his former colleague Marie Garnier (Greens). She would have informed him in 2017 via text message about her resignation. She had good ideas, right and left, “but always Machiavellian” – according to this theory, every means is allowed to gain political power.
Book is criticized
Marie Garnier defended herself in the newspaper La Liberté, accusing Godel of using it to wash his hands and want to put himself in a good light.
There was also a lot of shaking of the head: it was insensitive for a former state councilor to make such things public so shortly after his resignation.
The cantonal government of Freiburg vehemently distanced itself from Godel’s book. She was “challenged and disappointed”.
Political and legal consequences
She took note of the talks, which had been held under the seal of secrecy for four years: “They contain numerous elements that are contrary to the principles of trust and confidentiality, which are essential for the proper functioning of the collegial government”. , writes the State Council, who knew nothing about it. The state chancellor had been asked beforehand, but had not been included in the work.
Elements are contrary to the principles of trust and confidentiality.
According to the Freiburg public prosecutor’s office, the publication of the book is the subject of an investigation because of a possible breach of official secrecy. In addition, a first proposal was submitted to the cantonal parliament on Monday.
What does Godel say?
The former finance director, who left government at the end of December after 15 years, said last week that he was “200 percent” behind the book. Yes, he took a risk because he also spoke about his own dossiers, such as state finances or the restructuring of the public pension fund. Fortunately, these were successfully completed.
I take full responsibility for the good of the canton.
After all the criticism, however, he reacted: “I assume all responsibility for the good of the canton and its institutions.” He is withdrawing from public life immediately, he writes in a statement.
Throughout his career as a state councilor, he has worked for the well-being of the canton. It is unbearable for him that the book is now triggering the opposite. In hindsight, it was above all a mistake not to read the book again before publication.
TPF: “We didn’t force him”
When asked by SRF about Georges Godel’s resignation as Chairman of the Board of Directors, the Freiburger Verkehrsbetriebe TPF said: “The Freiburger Verkehrsbetriebe did not put any pressure on Georges Godel. He made the decision to resign himself. But certain people felt affected by statements by Georges Godel, »says Nadine Gobet, Vice President of the Board of Directors. In the meantime Gobet takes over the presidency.
They would regret the resignation of a dedicated and invested President, but thank him for his service over the years.
The cantonal government of Friborg takes note of the resignation, as announced. You will shortly discuss the replacement in the committees of the institutions that are important for the canton of Fribourg.