Berlin’s chief of police, Barbara Slowik, has now found herself in need of explanation in the waste and money affair surrounding RBB ex-director Patricia Schlesinger. Slowik was also a guest at one of the dinners. This was organized by Schlesinger in her apartment at the expense of the broadcaster.
Strict rules apply to officials regarding the acceptance of gifts and hospitality. A civil servant cannot simply accept “rewards, gifts or other advantages” while on duty, as the law states. Anyone who violates this must expect severe measures – up to criminal proceedings and dismissal from the civil service.
So Schlesinger liked to host illustrious groups of guests at home – but Schlesinger did not pay for the catering service with her annual salary of 300,000 euros per year. The costs were borne by the broadcaster – and thus by the fee payer.
Her husband Spörl, ex-Charité boss Max Einhäupl with his wife, Munich’s film school president Bettina Reitz with his wife, ex-head of the Office of the Federal President Stephan Steinlein with his wife, ex-ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, ex-head of the Senate Chancellery were entertained in various rounds André Schmitz (SPD), but also Berlin’s police chief Barbara Slowik with her husband.
A Brandenburg state politician says the Schlesingers apparently ran a private salon financed by the station.
That’s how it was on February 12, 2022. That evening, nine people were invited, in addition to Schlesinger’s husband, police chief Slowik and his husband, but also Charité boss Heyo Klaus Kroemer and his wife. The sumptuous meal costs 1154.87 euros, 127 euros per person.
The program included a four-course meal, six bottles of French red wine for EUR 28.45 per bottle, six bottles of French white wine for EUR 24.65 per bottle, but also two bottles of Veuve Clicqout champagne for a total of EUR 83. There are also costs for table linen, service and kitchen and delivery for 227.50 euros.
Why did the chief of police accept this lavish benefit paid for by the RBB in the form of a very expensive dinner? For civil servants, including the chief of police, the following applies: “The selfless, disinterested conduct of official business that is not concerned with personal gain is one of the essential foundations of a public service geared to the well-being of the population,” as stated in a leaflet by the State of Berlin for the called public service.
“Employees who accept gifts or other advantages in relation to their office or their profession endanger the trust of the general public and their authorities in their reliability,” it continues. “At the same time, they arouse the suspicion that they are generally venal for official acts and that their official business is not based exclusively on factual considerations, but is also guided by consideration for the advantages promised, granted or demanded of them.”
According to a police spokesman, Slowik didn’t even want to know that this sumptuous meal was financed by paying the fees. “Miss Dr. Slowik noted the information that the RBB was billed for dinner at the Schlesinger and Spörl family yesterday with great astonishment and irritation,” said the spokesman. “It was in no way apparent to her that this meeting had a professional background.”
The chief of police and her husband had been invited “by the Schlesinger and Spörl couple, who had known privately for a long time” – to the “inauguration of the new apartment with friends”.
The content of the conversation was also “purely private”. “If it had even become apparent that it was a business meal at the expense of the RBB, Dr. Slowik covered the costs,” said the spokesman.
But how private can the chief of police be? Especially when she is dealing with the director, whose station also has the task of critically monitoring the work of the police. The police spokesman referred to the “implementing regulations on the ban on accepting rewards, gifts and other advantages”. According to this, there would be no obligations in the case of “purely private participation in a private party”. And: “A permit did not have to be obtained.”
Nevertheless, the chief of police has a prominent position. For this reason, the Senate Department for the Interior has granted an exception “with regard to the social obligations of your office.” As part of representative tasks, she may very well accept benefits on official occasions, such as usual but also appropriate hospitality. If Slowik had been invited by the broadcaster to a reception at RBB, they would have been allowed to dine there. This benefit would be allowed by the exemption due to their prominent position.
The information sheet from the Senate Finance Administration states that there are no concerns if heads of authorities accept “free and admission tickets, free visits to sporting events or cultural events as part of social customs”.
That’s not enough for everyone. “Criticizing Ms. Schlesinger alone doesn’t go far enough. Anyone in high administrative office must avoid any appearance of lack of independence or even partisanship,” said former MP Marcel Luthe, chairman of the Good Governance Union. This is just the tip of the iceberg so far. “I’m curious to see who else – from the judiciary, associations and broadcasting council – still belongs to these opaque backroom circles.”
According to the Freedom of Information Act, Luthe has now requested access to the RBB’s files on the director’s hospitality documents. “The friendships that develop spontaneously between high-ranking officials have long been known in Bavaria as ‘amigos’,” says Luthe.
It gives the impression that those guests “undermined the independence and neutrality of fee-financed public broadcasting in backroom meetings” “who have something to do professionally with the RBB, for example should be controlled by the fourth power”.
The RBB Schlesinger affair may also have criminal consequences for the resigned RBB director. Schlesinger. The public prosecutor’s office in Berlin has initiated an investigation.
Schlesinger, her husband, ex-“Spiegel” journalist Gerhard Spörl, and the previous RBB board chief Wolf-Dieter Wolf are being investigated on suspicion of infidelity and accepting benefits.