Intercommunal syndicates: directors in the grey area

By Christian BlockLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

They ensure clean drinking water, empty rubbish bins or the treatment of wastewater, but the engineers at the head of technical community syndicates find themselves in a legal vacuum. This issue has persisted for years, but things seem to be moving forward now.

It is just over ten years since Roland Schaack applied for the position of Engineer-Director at the Siden Wastewater Syndicate. He was subsequently appointed to the post on the basis of the municipal association's articles of association, among other things. These statutes state that the "engineering director manages the day-to-day business". Schaack does just that. Founded in 1994, Siden not only deals with the discharge and treatment of wastewater from dozens of municipalities in the north of the country, the operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment plants and other installations, but also has a laboratory, workshops and various departments for accounting and the planning of construction projects.

However, like his colleagues in other municipal special-purpose associations, he is actually treading on thin ice. "When I open the door to the office in the morning, I've actually already got one foot in prison. Because if I do something, I run the risk of doing it wrong or without a legal basis. And if I don't do it, then I'm acting wrongly in relation to my civil service statute."

The problem has been known for many years. It concerns the so-called industrial community syndicates (see info box), which manage sewage or waste treatment plants and ensure that households in a region are supplied with clean drinking water. Because these are essentially technical systems that require specialist expertise, it makes sense for people with expertise, i.e. engineers, to take care of the day-to-day business so that they can react quickly in an emergency, for example.

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