The position of the Venray alderman and deputy mayor Jan Loonen (CDA, Grondzaken) is faltering after a report by consultancy Berenschot about a land deal between him and the Limburg water board was published. According to sources, a majority of the city council will support a no-confidence motion against the driver during a meeting on Wednesday evening.
It seems that a motion of censure will also be submitted against mayor Luc Winants (CDA). A council majority would find such a yellow card necessary, because Winants has recently acted more as a defender of party colleague Loonen than as a crown-appointed guardian of integrity.
NRC published in January on the issue that the local weekly newspaper Peel and Maas had discovered, but which had not been published after pressure by Mayor Winants. It concerned a land exchange from 2016 between Loonen and the deputy dike warden, CDA-prominent Ger Driessen. In addition to being alderman for Land Affairs, Loonen is also a large landowner. He sold land to the water board, so that the Loobeek could meander again.
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Loonen and Driessen negotiated privately about the land deal. The CDA members know each other well. Loonen was a member of the Provincial Council when Driessen was deputy. Berenschot states that Loonen adhered to the applicable rules and integrity codes, but that he gave the appearance of a conflict of interest in three cases.
Research published in May by detective agency Hoffmann on behalf of the water board showed that Loonen and his family are favored over other land owners.
For every hectare of land that the family handed in to the water board, they received 2.05 hectares in return. At other owners, it was no more than 1.2 hectares. And nothing was done about the objections of an official against the ‘bad deal for the water board’.
Appearance of a conflict of interest
Although Berenschot does not draw such firm conclusions, the bureau does note that Loonen has created the appearance of a conflict of interest on three occasions: by acting as spokesperson for the family several times during the negotiations, by making demands that also include the municipality of Venray. would have to do business and by talking privately with dijkgraaf Ger Driessen at Loonen’s brother’s home.
Berenschot also notes that the municipal council has never been formally informed about Loonen’s interests in the Loobeek valley. The agency also states: “It seems that the water board was eager to reach an agreement and has stretched itself considerably.” But the result achieved would mainly be the result of the good negotiations by Loonen and his good land positions.
Loonen himself would like to continue as alderman. He receives support from mayor Luc Winants (CDA) and the CDA faction led by brother Toon Loonen.
Winners under fire
Winants is not for the first time under fire. In 2010, he resigned as alderman of Maastricht, when the council threatened to pass a no-confidence motion against him. He accused him of having informed the council incorrectly and too late about the purchase by the municipality of the stadium of football club MVV. In 2013, he became mayor in Brunssum, but he left there too early, after a conflict with part of the city council.
In the Loonen case, it was Winants who put pressure on Peel and Maas to wait with publications about the land deal. In addition to being an important source of news, the municipality of Venray is also the largest advertiser in the magazine.
The debate on the Loonen case is taking place just after the publication of a critical report by the Kaiser committee, which was commissioned by the CDA. This signaled ‘cliques that get on with each other’, the tendency to allow everything that is not prohibited and the stacking and interweaving of functions by office holders of Christian Democratic households. RTL News In 2017, with 71 additional positions, Loonen proclaimed him the king of side jobs in the Netherlands.
Loonen is, among other things, vice-chairman of nine foundations affiliated with the CDA. Under the name Waterbelang, they together occupy fourteen of the thirty seats in the general board of the Limburg Water Board.
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Limburg is the only province where the CDA does not participate in the water board elections, but leaves that to regional foundations. Harold Schroeder, chairman of the CDA Limburg, says that, in the light of the Kaiser committee, consideration will be given to participating as a CDA in the next elections. “Then the question is what that means for the CDA members who are on the list of Water Interest.”