Four Research Agency board members dismissed again

Ljubljana, 22 April - The government has again dismissed the four members of the management board of the public Research Agency (ARRS) who had been previously dismissed but had challenged this decision in court, which annulled the government decision. They say they will seek justice in court again.

The four dismissed members - Emilija Stojmenova Duh, Tonček Kregar, Jana Kolar and Justina Erčulj - had been appointed on proposal from the Ministry of Education. Last night's decision on their dismissal became effective immediately.

The government said the four members had been unscrupulous, biased and unprofessional in the selection of Lidija Tičar Padar as the agency's acting director.

Just like the first time, the four dismissed members were replaced by Igor Emri, Gabrijela Horvat, Fidel Krupić and Tina Tomažič, also proposed by the Ministry of Education, to serve until the end of the board's term in October 2024.

The four dismissed members see their second dismissal "for political reasons" as a "severe interference in the autonomy of the key research institution". They believe it is their duty to contest the government's accusations in court and thus contribute to the rule of law.

They said in a press release today that the decision on Tičar Padar's appointment had been made unanimously after interviews and careful consideration of all members of the board.

"We have indeed been appointed by the government but we are bound by law to be unbiased, independent and professional at what we do to serve the public interest ..." they said.

The four believe they were replaced because "we are not submissive enough to be entrusted with important decisions such as picking a full-fledged director that would be to the government's liking, approve the financing of a new research institute without knowing its programme, and endorse regulations for implementing the new law on research and innovation".

The SVIZ trade union, which represents employees in education, science and culture, expressed indignation at the government's decision, noting that the ARRS management board had again been unjustifiably overhauled.

"This is a war of prestige where the government, bypassing the rules on its own volition and based on personal motives, deals with things that affect all researchers, while deliberately neglecting the fundamental role of the ARRS.

"At the same time, it does so just before the election and at one of the most critical times for Slovenian science, when the prudent, transparent and highly professional functioning of the ARRS is very urgently needed," SVIZ said in today's press release.

The four members of the ARRS board were initially dismissed at the end of January as the government once again decided against appointing Tičar Padar as acting director of the ARRS. Emri, Horvat, Krupić and Tomažič were appointed as their replacements.

The overhauled management board then proposed Mitja Lainščak to serve as the acting director of the agency in charge of disbursing funding for science, and he was subsequently confirmed by the government.

But the four dismissed members filed a lawsuit at the Administrative Court over their dismissal. The court annulled the contested government decision on the grounds that it did not come with any explanation as to the grounds for the dismissal. This time the government provided the grounds.