Lawyers Jadranka Slokovic, Cedo Prodanovic and Jasna Novak offered the government verbal and not written advice concerning the situation of former Veterans' Affairs Minister Mijo Crnoja and the government paid HRK 2,187.50 (approximately EUR 300) for their services, notes a government response to Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Pedja Grbin who had queried about the arrangement with the lawyers.
Lodging the query, Grbin referred to the Freedom of Information Law (FOI) and the government responded in the prescribed time. However, Grbin said that he was not satisfied with the government's response and that he would request a further explanation.
"The main conclusion from the government's reply is that Karamarko and the government have presented a series of untruths about the procedure surrounding Crnoja's resignation and the engagement of attorneys, lest I say, lied. That evening when the minister stepped down, First Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko waved a piece of paper in which he claimed, implied that Crnoja was not responsible for anything. However, that paper allegedly is what the attorneys presented concerning the consultations over the Crnoja case," Grbin told Hina.
He warned that the government's reply however, notes that the attorneys did not present a written opinion but exclusively verbal. "What the contents of that opinion are, has not been answered and I will continue with this procedure with the Information Ombudswoman to obtain that information," Grbin said.
He recalled that the government was adamant that the legal services were free of charge, or as the government's press release said, "considering that this referred exclusively to one-off services of an advisory nature by external associates, legal experts, Jadranka Slokovic, Jasna Novak and Cedo Prodanovic as participants in the expert discussion together with legal experts of the Patriotic Coalition and Bridge, their services were completely free of charge."
"The reply notes that the services were paid for after all. The price of the services is not significant, what is significant is that the information about the payment emerged after the government expressly stated that the services were free of charge. Why has that detail now been changed," Grbin asked and announced that he would continue to send queries to the government because the reply he received was insufficient.
Mijo Crnoja stepped down late January, a little more than a week after he took office, following media pressure due to a scandal over land for his future house and a loan granted to him.
In deciding Crnoja's fate, the government called for the advice of legal experts and the government then claimed that the attorneys had been engaged free of charge. The Croatian Bar Association however warned that in that case the attorneys could face disciplinary action as free legal aid can only be offered with the approval of the bar, which the three had not requested.