The Supreme Court sentenced the ex-chairman of the Kittilä municipal government to a 60-day suspended prison sentence. Seven other accused municipal decision-makers were sentenced to fines for abuse of office. The charges had been dismissed in previous court cases.
Supreme the court (KKO) has given its decision in the official crime case concerning trustees of the municipality of Kittilä.
Both the District Court of Lapland and the Court of Appeal of Rovaniemi had previously dismissed the criminal charges against the municipal decision-makers. However, the Supreme Court granted the prosecutors a limited leave to appeal in the case, specifically regarding whether the decision-makers violated their official duties in 2013 in order to obtain benefits for the ex-CEO of the ski lift company.
The Supreme Court changed the judgment of the Court of Appeal and convicted a total of eight Kittilä municipal councilors at the time for abuse of office.
According to KKO, the municipal decision-makers were guilty of official misconduct in December 2013. At that time, the decision-makers had decided to cancel the investigation request made by the then-municipal manager regarding the ex-CEO of the municipality’s majority-owned ski lift company.
In addition, they had informed the municipality’s representatives, as owner guidance, that the former managing director still enjoys the trust of the municipality and that he must be invited back as the company’s managing director.
The KKO condemned the former chairman of the Kittilä municipal board Timo Kurulan for abuse of official position to a 60-day suspended prison sentence. Seven other members and deputy members of the Kittilä municipal board were sentenced to varying fines of 10, 40, or 60 daily fines.
Kurula is currently the mayor of Kittilä.
According to KKO, the defendants violated their official duties in order to obtain benefits for the ex-CEO of the ski lift company while participating in the decision-making of the municipal board in December 2013.
In its decision, KKO considered that the defendants in their decision-making and preparation had biasedly sought to benefit the ex-CEO and promoted purposes other than those belonging to the municipality.
Kittilä the municipality owned 51 percent of the shares of the ski lift company Levi Ski Resort. In November 2013, the board of the ski lift company transferred the company’s CEO to the temporary position of project manager based on the loss of trust in him in the company’s board in connection with the purchase of the lift.
The mayor of Kittilä at the time had made an investigation request to the police on behalf of the municipality of Kittilä together with Levin Matkailukeskus Oy about the CEO of the elevator company.
At the meeting of the municipal board on 16 December 2013, the municipal board decided to cancel the investigation request made by the mayor of the CEO and to give the municipality’s representatives in the ski lift company ownership guidance, according to which the man had to be reinstated as CEO.
The defendants justified their decision by pursuing the interest of the municipality. They said that they considered the return of the managing director to his position to be relevant for the economic development of the ski lift company and the municipality.
However, the Supreme Court held that the pursuit of the municipality’s interest was not the primary motivation for the defendants’ actions.
“The decisions to cancel the investigation request and reinstate the person to the position of CEO have primarily served the private interest of the CEO, and the defendants have not presented them with factually acceptable arguments based on the interest of the municipality at the time of decision-making,” the court states in its decision.
According to KKO, there was no rush to make decisions at that time, but instead of a more detailed investigation, decisions were processed and made with an exceptionally fast schedule.
KKO stated that at the time of decision-making, the defendants had no reason to consider the lack of trust experienced by the board of the ski lift company as unfounded.
According to KKO, it was obvious and noticeable to everyone that the decisions were apt to favor the CEO’s private interest. It has not been claimed that the decision-makers themselves benefited in the matter.
The Supreme Court found that the defendants violated official duty intentionally.
Prosecutors had justified their appeal to KKO by saying that the municipal board’s decision was biased and its purpose was to benefit the managing director at the expense of the municipality’s interest.
According to what the prosecutors previously presented, the case is about structural corruption and the KKO’s decision has a wide meaning.
“We emphasize that the case is not only relevant to Kittilä, but this applies to all trustees and decisions to be made in municipalities and welfare areas in the future”, the prosecutor Katri Junnikkala-Heikkinen said in his closing statement last May.
The prosecutors’ application for leave to appeal was rejected insofar as the case concerned, among other things, the decision-making of the municipality’s trustees and its preparation in other matters. The former municipal manager, who was the interested party, was not granted permission to appeal.
The Supreme Court therefore dealt with the matter only with regard to the cancellation of the 2013 investigation request and the granting of ownership guidance.
Otherwise, the judgment of the Court of Appeal was not changed, but the judgment rejecting the Court of Appeal remained legally binding in other respects.
The defendants themselves denied the charge, denying that they had violated their official duty and that they sought to benefit the ex-CEO of the elevator company.
Now Kittilä’s multi-generational municipal crisis, which has been dealt with in the courts several times, started from the elevator scandal discussed at KKO and the investigation request made by the ex-municipal manager.
The CEO of Levi Ski Resort was later charged with abuse of a position of trust in connection with the tender for the purchase of an elevator in 2013, but the charge was overturned in both the district court and the appeals court.
The municipal council of Kittilä fired the mayor who requested the investigation in 2013, citing a lack of trust. However, the Supreme Administrative Court found the dismissals illegal in the summer of 2016.
The story was supplemented throughout with additional information on March 2, 2023 at 11:07 a.m.
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