Ministry of Finance to begin Local Government Act procedure for hearing views of Kittilä municipality
Municipality of Kittilä has not taken sufficient steps to ensure that its governance accords with the law.
On 13 October 2017, the Prosecutor’s Office of Oulu announced that charges have been brought against numerous individuals who had served during the previous electoral term on Kittilä’s municipal council and municipal executive and in a temporary standing committee of the municipality. The charges brought against the different individuals are for work safety offences, work discrimination, abuse of public office and aggravated abuse of public office. Many of the individuals are also serving in positions of trust in the municipality in the current council term.
Kittilä’s municipal council gave consideration on 31 October 2017 to the possibility of suspending the elected officials to whom the charges apply from their positions of trust. Under the decision taken by the municipal council, the elected officials acting as defendants in the criminal cases brought to Lapland District Court have been suspended from participating in the consideration of matters that are the subject of the charges brought or in which they are disqualified for other reasons. The Ministry of Finance considers that the Municipality of Kittilä has not taken sufficient steps to ensure that governance of the municipality accords with the law in view of the provisions in section 85 of the Local Government Act concerning the suspension of elected officials for the duration of a pre-trial investigation and legal proceedings that concern an offence in office that they are suspected of having committed in the course of their duties.
The purpose of section 85 of the Local Government Act is to secure the credibility and reliability of decision-making in the municipality in a situation where elected officials are suspected of serious offences in office. As the charges brought by the Prosecutor’s Office concern a number of serious offences in office and apply to a large group of elected officials, and because the pre-trial investigation and the consideration of charges also cover other matters, merely complying with the provisions on disqualification is not, in the Ministry of Finance’s view, sufficient to secure the reliability and credibility of decision-making.
Chapter 12a of the Local Government Act lays down provisions on the investigation procedure concerning municipalities that are in exceptional administrative difficulties and the conditions in which the procedure is to be put into place. Under the Local Government Act, the Ministry of Finance must hear the views of the municipality in question before the appointment of an investigator or investigation group to investigate the municipality’s governance. On 2 November 2017, the Ministry of Finance requested the Municipality of Kittilä to supply a statement by 18 December 2017 on the matter of appointing an investigation group. If, after hearing the views of the municipality, the conditions for putting the investigation procedure in place are still met, the investigation work would begin on 1 January 2018 and would conclude upon the completion of the investigation, though no later than 28 February 2018. Under the Local Government Act, the investigation group’s proposals for action would have to be considered by Kittilä’s municipal council as soon as possible and the decisions on these proposals would have to be reported to the Ministry of Finance.
The Ministry of Finance is about to appoint as members of the investigation group Antti Rantakokko, Liisa Talvitie (Chief Judge of the Administrative Court, LL.M. with court training) and Irma Nieminen (LL.M. with court training). Antti Rantakokko will chair the investigation group. The group members have extensive experience in the field of municipal self-government and the group has the required legal expertise. The members of the investigation group are independent of both the Municipality of Kittilä and the Ministry of Finance.
There would be no need or justification for the Ministry of Finance to put in place the investigation procedure under the Local Government Act if the municipality were to take sufficient steps in the matter. Under the Local Government Act, elected officials may also themselves choose to withdraw from their positions of trust.
Auli Valli-Lintu, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 530 079
Mervi Kuittinen, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Legislative Affairs, tel. +358 295 530 445