Czech Republic: New advice bureau to replace defunct Romani NGO
News server iDNES.cz reports that the recently appealed conviction of Ladislav Bílý, the leader of the Romani Civic Association (Romské občanské sdružení) in Karlovy Vary, has now left a gap in the services available free of charge there, but the counseling center that operated for years in the association's offices should be replaced by a similar facility within half a year. The Prague-based leadership of the Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaus (Asociace občanských poraden - AOP) is already taking action to provide substitute services.
Closest counseling center is in Plzeň
The counseling center, which is no longer running, provided several different social services primarily to Romani residents. The new facility that the AOP wants to open in Karlovy Vary will assist the same target group of people.
The Karlovy Vary Region is currently the only region in the country without a citizens' advice bureau affiliated with the Association. Currently the closest facility to which people from Karlovy Vary in onerous situations can turn for advice is 80 kilometers away in Plzeň.
"We are dealing with resolving this situation. We presume that within six months something similar to the counseling center that has closed might operate in Karlovy Vary, but it will be of a different quality," AOP director Stanislav Skalický said.
Skalický sees the purpose of civic advice bureaus in the fact that they are free of charge and that they address a wide range of problems afflicting people predominantly from the lower levels of society. "When a person is in financial difficulty, that affects his relationship with his partner, his housing, and other areas. Civic advice bureaus address all these matters," Skalický said.
NGO Český západ
The events around the head of the Romani Civic Association, who is appealing a first-instance verdict handed down yesterday by a court in Plzeň sentencing him to six years behind bars for subsidy fraud, have been followed by the Český západ civic association, headquartered in the village of Dobrá Voda (Toužim district). The association focuses its activities on the socially excluded, predominantly Romani, community in Dobrá Voda and elsewhere around the Teplá area.
"Embezzlement of money that has to be settled in court throws a bad light on all our social work. Similar things could be going on in other organizations working with Romani people, but it's definitely not a rule of thumb," Český západ spokesperson Eva Haunerová assured iDNES.cz.
Bílý denies culpability
Stanislav Sivák was employed by the Romani Civic Association and used to be one of two legal representatives of the now-closed counseling center. He last spoke with Ladislav Bílý on the day prior to his conviction.
"We're not at war with one another, he was a good consultant, but I always knew he would pay a price for the high opinion he held of himself. Many people could not stomach his behavior," Sivák said of Tuesday's court verdict.
He is not, however, glad about it. "Whenever we requested funding, they kept on linking us to the Romani Civic Association. That caused us 'black guys' here 90 % of our problems, because anyone black was considered the equivalent of Ladislav Bílý. We're a counseling center, we don't have anything to do with Ladislav Bílý," he claims.
Bílý has denied any culpability and immediately appealed yesterday's verdict. "I founded the Romani Civic Association in 1999 and we aid socially vulnerable people in the Karlovy Vary area. I am not aware of having done anything wrong. I paid out of my own pocket for the actions we never received funding for. I definitely never forged anything. What's more, between 2006 and 2010 we were under financial supervision," Bílý told the court.
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