Han Bekkers has not told his colleagues in the Leudal town hall that he is a wizard. Graduated wizard at Avatar, a Scientology-like movement. He is expected to drive out people of deceased people, to predict the future and to manipulate people.
"Of course not. Why would I tell you that? My resume says that I did a course. I have done Avatar, well and? "
The end of the conversation with Han Bekkers (69), interim municipal secretary in Leudal, is not as fun as the beginning. Then it was about his impressive career within the public administration. Bekkers is a former top civil servant in The Hague, former chairman of the Association of Municipal Secretaries. For twenty years he has held prominent positions with municipalities. As a municipal secretary, he was previously in charge of civil servants in Dordrecht, Nijmegen, Haarlemmermeer, Haaksbergen, Landgraaf, Heerlen, Leiden and Amersfoort.
I did Avatar, well and?
Han Bekkers (69), interim municipal secretary in Leudal.
Less well known is that Bekkers is a follower of Avatar, a sectarian movement with a commercial impact. Avatar has strongly opposed the American Church of Scientology, criticized for psychological manipulation of followers.
With Bekkers disagreeable ideas, gained from Avatar, find their way in the Dutch public administration. And for that he is paying well, according to research of NRC .
Avatar is an invention of the American Harry Palmer (73). He leads a center of Scientology from 1974 to 1984 and starts in 1986 for himself. Through his company he sells a cocktail of Scientology methods, Hinduism and New Age ideas. The goal of Avatar is to create an "enlightened planetary society" and achieve world peace. It is presented as the "most powerful, purest self-development program available". Learners learn how to create their own reality and how they can cast out souls of the dead. 'Highlight' is the theory of Palmer that the earth is colonized by extraterrestrials.
After having worked in eight other municipalities, Han Bekkers – lean and tanned, just keeps returning from a jungle trip to pygmies in the Cameroon office in Leudal. With 37,000 inhabitants, 16 village centers and 165 square kilometers, this is one of the largest municipalities in Limburg. "I can not say that the municipal secretary is my calling, but gradually I start to feel like 'the municipal secretary of the Netherlands'."
Municipalities come to him because he is "innovative" and "strong in vision and strategy", he says in the beginning of the conversation. "I am therefore a step ahead of many people."
I am therefore a step ahead of many people.
Han Bekkers (69), interim municipal secretary in Leudal
Han Bekkers grows after the war in Utrecht, in a Catholic family with five children. Father Karel is the founder of Cantecleer, a publisher in manual books, later also art travel guides. Mother Adriana studies art history. He always had a feeling for the spiritual, says Bekkers. "I believe there is more between heaven and earth than we can see."
'He seemed like an apostle'
In 1999 he came into contact with another Scientology-like movement: Landmark. Bekkers is then municipal secretary in Dordrecht. His son Florian, Landmark trainer and presently chairman of GroenLinks in provincial states of Utrecht, invites him to Landmark. Bekkers follows a training of twenty hours a week for half a year and is wildly enthusiastic. "It was total commitment . A nice school. "
He encourages his 1,550 officials to also go to Landmark. Hans Spigt (57), PvdA council member at the time, sees it happening: "Bekkers did a lot of advertising for Landmark internally. It focused on personal development and the removal of inhibitions in your work and private life. He was recruited as a municipal secretary to carry out an organizational change. After a while he seemed an apostle of Landmark. Some people began to walk through the hallways lit and to shout that we were doing so well together. "
I believe there is more between heaven and earth than we can see.
Han Bekkers (69), interim -common secretary in Leudal.
Spigt was told by some officials that they felt pressured to attend these courses. "It was not possible that Bekkers turned it into a sectarian club, I thought." Spigt thinks it is "fine" if people want to believe in something. "But you have to do that especially in your free time. If you make Landmark part of your professional behavior in an organization, that is a theme. "
Han Bekkers never says to have put anyone under pressure. After the noise the wind turns in the town hall. Internally, Bekkers reacts more critically and eight months later
The issue in Dordrecht gets the paper, but in 2000 it does not form an obstacle to a new job as a municipal secretary in Nijmegen
. Ban from Avatar. A friend brings him into contact with the ideas of Harry Palmer. "She was very enthusiastic," says Bekkers. He is also enthusiastic and follows three Avatar courses.
In Nijmegen he makes an analysis of the official problems after one hundred days. Bekkers finds "a disorganized organization with a lot of frustration, powerlessness, poor communication and no cooperation," he says to Management Team .
Like in Dordrecht, many Bekkers officials find in the beginning an inspiring and amiable man with new ideas. That something has to change is clear. But after those hundred days the problems begin. Management needs a week on course. Bekkers uses Rob Fijlstra and Harry Wullings for this. Friends with whom he already worked in Dordrecht, and whose approach is in line with his Avatar ideas. Fijlstra (64) calls himself "thinker and organization activist". Wullings (69) is "sounding board". They want to get rid of "hierarchy" and promote "shared ideals, inspirational circles and pacemakers". Bekkers: "It clicks between us. We speak the same language. "The duo says that they have no ties with Avatar.
Fijlstra and Wullings are hired outside the usual procedures, reports the then chairman of the Tiny Vloet works council:" We have approached Han Bekkers, but that was mustard after the meal. Then they were already inside. That Bekkers was an Avatar man, I discovered that at the time. "
We approached Han Bekkers, but that was mustard after the meal.
Tiny Vloet, former chairman of the works council of Nijmegen
] Vloet recently saw a film about Scientology by documentary maker Louis Theroux. He sees similarities: "That closedness and the holy belief in our own views. Bekkers was very confident. He knew what was going on. Never doubted. "
The entire management of Nijmegen is being screened by Bekkers. Adviser to the works council Gerard van Extel: "There were trajectories that looked into the soul, coaching trajectories. People got a lot of choice. One could do better against that than the other. Colleagues were sometimes very emotional. "
On 'soul journey' with Bekkers
After six years Bekkers gets up in Nijmegen. Yes, he had a disagreement with an alderman, but that was not the reason, he says now. After years of government service, he wants more freedom.
He starts the company in 2006 Han Bekkers Leadership and Advice . Like Avatar guru Harry Palmer, he sells courses and training for personal development. The civil servant Bekkers becomes a therapist and trainer.
The motto with which he encourages people to change is: "what you believe in, happens". Avatar is based on "you experience what you believe". The highest goal of Avatar is world peace. The highest goal of Bekkers also. His website: "I believe that together in this world, in all our communities, we can work together at every level to live in peace." That does require guidance, and Bekkers provides that.
the source of your own leadership? Then the time has come for "a soul journey" with Han Bekkers. He takes students on meditation in a villa in the South of France and on therapeutic sailing weeks in Zeeland and Sardinia.
What you believe in is happening.
Han Bekkers (69), interim municipal secretary in Leudal.
He did not cut contact with the public administration, on the contrary. Bekkers has extended his authority and network nationwide through his chairmanship of the Association of Municipal Secretaries. He gives team training to civil servants and administrators. Municipalities hire him as interim municipal secretary to change the culture in their organization. With him success is guaranteed, Bekkers reports on his website – a blend of management language and new age jargon.
Via Bekkers ideas gained from Avatar find their way into the public administration. Not because Avatar founder Palmer whispers this to him, but because it has become his own ideas after so many years.
Civil servants with trauma
In 2008, Haaksbergen, in the south of Twente, calls in Bekkers for help. Here he tinkers with officials for eight months. They are struggling, says Bekkers, with a trauma after failed reorganisations. As interim municipal secretary he will develop a new vision on governance and organization. He gets a desk that is going to do research on "the soul of Haaksbergen"
He presents a change plan. But before the execution has begun well, he has already left for a new job. The process in Haaksbergen is in the doldrum. Bekkers: "A little bit sad. Together with the mayor I did nice things there. Unfortunately, my successor could not keep up. "
His success guarantee is limited. In other municipalities Bekkers' approach also leads to problems, he does not deliver what he promises or he left prematurely.
In 2008 he will be observing in Landgraaf. He names the 'pain points' and brings in Fijlstra and Wullings. After nine months he is already interim municipal clerk in neighboring Heerlen.
In the former mining town, as elsewhere, he makes an analysis of cultural and behavioral problems after arrival. Fijlstra and Wullings come in for the fourth time. In 'healing sessions' they will improve the cooperation between department heads and directors. The duo is also hired here outside the usual procedures. Other quotations are not requested. The mayor and aldermen, dominated by the SP, cover it.
Fijlstra and Wullings declare 46.619 euros. The duo is taking charge of the management at the 4-star Vaalsbroek in Vaals. The department heads must put their weaknesses and vulnerabilities on a flip chart . Then they are questioned critically. "Humiliating," says an official who is there. After a session, a colleague bursts into tears at home.
It leads to a grim atmosphere. The official: "Fijlstra, Wullings and Bekkers concluded that there was little willingness to change and that the group was not worth investing in energy and money." When asked, Fijlstra says that there is no "cultural click" was.
The last two sessions are done by Bekkers himself. The municipal secretary is suddenly also a trainer and a therapist. His subordinates take the measure. Want them to look good in the soul.
"He acted completely unethical", recalls former head welfare Gerard Heldens. "When he pointed out his 'hat problem' he waved it away. He could combine the roles perfectly. He invited us to be very frank to each other and therefore to him. When one of the colleagues confronted him with his manipulative behavior, he shot out of his sheaf and suddenly he became city secretary again. The colleague was later removed from his position by Bekkers. "
He acted completely unethically
Gerard Heldens, former head of welfare
Heldens shares his criticism with Bekkers and also informs mayor and aldermen about the Avatar background from the municipal secretary in relation to his "therapeutic intervention". It does not lead to intervention, he says.
According to Bekkers, the departure of the colleague has nothing to do with the incident. At that time no one had a problem with his role. "In fact, they asked whether I wanted to do it. Now that this is being played back, I can say that I should not have done that. "
Bekkers' approach is later evaluated by an external agency. This shows that the trajectory "led to confusion" by the "therapy-like" but at the same time compelling (top-down) approach. "Bekkers exchanged" regularly of pet "by being the one time trainer / companion / companion and the other times as general manager ". Officials found the sessions "judgmental, unnecessarily negative and unsophisticated."
It surprises former head of department Heldens that Bekkers, despite the negative evaluation, could always get started elsewhere. "It concerns me two things. In the first place there is the infiltration of Avatar ideas into public administration. Secondly, it appears that there are networks in which Avatar supporters lend each other jobs and assignments. The board makes it happen. "
Missionary who brings the Light
While working in Heerlen, Bekkers deepened his Avatar knowledge. In the spring of 2010 he travels to Orlando, Florida, to attend a thirteen-day course at Harry Palmer's company. In Orlando he becomes wizard . That is the highest you can achieve with Avatar.
Every day, Palmer is on stage to speak to the audience. He says that wizards have skills that seem "supernatural or magical" and are missionaries who bring "the Light".
Another top civil servant from Heerlen is present in Orlando: director of economy Dorthe Schipperheijn. In the Avatar hierarchy she has risen to the Palmer environment, as an assistant during wizard courses. The mayor and aldermen do not know better than that she has a company that sells Avatar courses alongside her civil service job.
Schipperheijn was previously a municipal secretary in Vlissingen. She has to leave in 2008 as trade unions and works council to give her confidence in her. The regional newspaper PZC links the departure to "her involvement" with Avatar who has "affected the Skipper's authority".
As city clerk, Schipperheijn Avatar brings in the town hall, officials say to NRC . In doing so, she is putting her staff under pressure to follow Avatar training, according to the story of Jac 't Hart, then head of government affairs.
' t Hart: "During my performance interview, she said I had to do an Avatar course. That would be good for my career. The municipality paid the costs, several thousand euros. She had already given me up and I got all the information from her. "
't Hart has to report in a hotel in Egmond aan Zee. The course lasts a week. There are a hundred students from all over the country. "I found the atmosphere nasty."
During my performance interview, she said I should do an Avatar course.
Jac 't Hart, former head of government affairs
The most annoying moment is when Avatars' entities', souls of the deceased, come to fetch him from his body. "It was a ritual, at the end of the week. I had to lie on a bed in a half-dark hotel room. Two women, important Avatars, came to say proverbs for a quarter of an hour. Then I knew: this is a sect. "
Afterwards he has to hand in his teaching material. He should also leave the A4 pages with frank answers to questions about personal matters such as his fears and dreams.
"They were at the door to check. Nothing was allowed outside. Then I have been bothered with phone calls for another ten years. Whether I wanted another course. Later I heard that Avatars get money when they supply students. "
According to 't Hart, Schipperheijn is one of the toppers in the Netherlands, a wizard, with a number of people among them."
She also played a role in the controversial sale in 2012 of the former office of the Central Bureau of Statistics in Heerlen, in violation of legal rules and the principles of good governance. A reconstruction of NRC revealed last month that Schipperheijn, who handled the sale as an official, had been an advisor to the project developer who was allowed to buy the CBS complex exclusively and at a low price.
Schipperheijn does not want to talk to the newspaper. By e-mail she denies having put pressure on officials or forwarding them to Avatar.
'There is nothing wrong with manipulation'
Han Bekkers gets the Schipperheijn laid off in Vlissingen in 2009 to Heerlen. That does not happen effortlessly: there is resistance in the application committee. "It was her departure in Vlissingen. And she had no economic education and experience, "says a member of the committee. Bekkers continues. Despite the criticism, Schipperheijn becomes director of economy in Heerlen. Meanwhile, she is an interim municipal secretary.
Only after some time does the civil service company realize that Bekkers and Schipperheijn have a bond. Their stay in Orlando is not mentioned at first, officials say they work with them. Later, Schipperheijn and Bekkers report that they met on holiday in the US. Ultimately, it turns out that it was an Avatar training.
According to Bekkers, there was no Avatar relationship. "If you want to find that connection, it is allowed, but that is not there." He admits that Avatar has "shaped" him. "I do not deny that, fortunately." Does it affect the way he does his job? "Certainly."
If you want to find that connection, you can, but that is not there.
Han Bekkers (69), interim municipal secretary in Leudal
In his modest office in Leudal, colorful paintings hang on the white walls and a tidy desk. Frontal in the middle, visible to every official passing by, lies his book The drop and the ocean published in-house. It is meant for "new leaders" on their way to world peace.
Landmark, Avatar, what do you see?
"You have to attend a course. That is the only way to understand what the value is. "
But that expulsion of souls of the deceased?
" I do not consider it impossible that people are possessed by entities. "
The manipulation then?  "Nothing is wrong with manipulation. You should use your influence to realize something you stand for. "
Predicting the future?
" They were very interesting exercises. "
But Harry Palmer claims that the earth is colonized by extraterrestrials. Beings?
"Ah, I get out what appeals to me."
Han Bekkers will stay in Heerlen until August 2010. In a year and a half, he "could not reach many managers". The fact that it did not work out is not up to him, he says, but to the southern mentality of "saying yes and saying no."
No friction without friction
Where Bekkers takes office, the same companies always appear. Fijlstra and Wullings in Dordrecht, Nijmegen, Heerlen, Landgraaf and Amersfoort. Training company ITIP in Dordrecht, Nijmegen and Haaksbergen. In 2012, another consultancy firm with a connection with it: Public Domain. This company will receive a quarter of a million euros to train civil servants. In that period, Bekkers is himself connected to the Public Domain as a member of the Program Council. He also gives courses to officials and administrators on behalf of that company. According to Bekkers, he did not select Public Domain himself.
There is nothing wrong with manipulation. You can use your influence to realize something you stand for.
Han Bekkers (69), interim municipal secretary in Leudal
After arriving in Amersfoort, he quickly saw what was going on. Here he finds "an excited and troubled organization". Bekkers makes a "charcoal sketch" for an organizational development trajectory. His vision is not shared by everyone. He is "made suspicious," he says, and experiences "opposition." Well, sometimes he has "not done the most appropriate intervention". But he could not do otherwise, because "without friction no shine."
In Amersfoort he leaves prematurely. He did not want to give up his "relative independence" and his "truth", he says cryptically. Explanation remains. "I do not want to damage anyone."
Best paid official in the country
Before Bekkers leaves Amersfoort, there are council members who criticize the level of his rate. He declares 21,816 euros per month. The other municipalities that call in Bekker also reward him generously – mission succeeded or not.
In Landgraaf he has a part-time job for 25,000 euros per month. Heerlen pays 28,547 euros per month, also for part-time work. Between March and May 2009 Bekkers works (and declares) both in Landgraaf and in Heerlen. In these three months he receives 130,233 euros. That makes him just the best paid official in the country.
For eight months in Leiden he invoices 203,017 euros. Successor Jan Nauta: "His high salary led to a discussion with the city council. The college had willingly and willingly agreed with it, so that did not immediately blame Bekkers. After his departure, it has been agreed that civil servants will never be able to earn more than the mayor, 110,000 euros per year. "
Last year in April, Bekkers moved into the administrative wing of the town hall in Leudal. The place was released after the previous municipal secretary was arrested on suspicion of money laundering.
Here, too, civil servants need to be shaken up. Bekkers started the 'Leudal from the valley' program. The municipality is "working for too long internally, in a negative way."
Leudal pays him 18,500 euros per month for a four-day working week (excluding 70 euros per day). Bekkers: "A pittance, never worked so cheaply."