Bergen’s former mayor unloads

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Trude Drevland was being called everything from a “drama queen” to a bitter and disgraced politician after she released her new book this week entitled Litt privat (A big private). She is, at least, now an author who clearly felt a need to unload and share what’s she’s been through during the past year.

Former high-profile Bergen Mayor Trude Drevland has been down in the dumps since being charged with corruption. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

Former high-profile Bergen Mayor Trude Drevland has been down in the dumps since being charged with corruption. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

Drevland’s fall from the top level of Bergen politics was swift and stunning. It all began when she agreed to be the “godmother” for local shipowner Torstein Hagen’s new luxury cruiseship Viking Star in 2014. That involved being flown in a private jet to Venice where she was put up at an expensive hotel and took part in lavish launch ceremonies for the vessel that was to be home-ported in Bergen.

It all ended up with Drevland, Hagen and Bergen’s harbour director Inge Tangerås, who also was on the private jet to Venice, being charged with corruption. Drevland had declined an all-expenses-paid cruise on the new ship after media reports of possible conflicts of interest, but she already had lobbied her good friend Trade Minister Monica Mæland to change some rules for ship registration that would allow Hagen to emblazon “Bergen” on the Viking Star’s stern. Bergen’s official 17th of May celebrations also included clearing a local pier where the ship could be docked, with fireworks to celebrate the christening.

‘Annus horribilis’
Drevland, whose husband landed in prison last year in another matter, wouldn’t talk about the possible indictment she now faces after her annus horribilis, other than to say that she dreads the state prosecutor’s decision. She said she doesn’t want the case to be tried in the media. She does write in her book, though, that if she is indicted later this fall, “I don’t want to survive.” She later denied being suicidal and claimed she intends to “stand upright” through whatever legal challenges lies ahead.

In the meantime she clearly wants to share her burdens, tell her side of the story and perhaps earn some money off the book. She writes how she realized her career as a full-time politician was over when the corruption charges were filed, how she had to pack and move out of an apartment she rented that was too expensive, how she took unpaid leave from her mayor’s post and also had to pay off debt that she thinks was “unfairly” passed to her in connection with her husband’s legal problems.

There have been some bright spots, she said. While she blasted the Bergen chapter of the Conservative Party for turning its back on her immediately, she noted that Prime Minister Erna Solberg (also from Bergen) had called occasionally to see how she was holding up. “That warmed my heart every time,” Drevland told reporters. She said she’s also grateful for Mæland’s ongoing  support as an old friend.

Local Bergen politicians, however, let her down terribly, according to Drevland. “Everything I had done for the Bergen Conservatives was forgotten in the blink of an eye, and I was immediately considered dead for the local party,” she writes in her book. She was glad that the national party organization and party leader Solberg had at least shown “compassion and generosity.”

Phone tapped
Drevland was also furious with the already-embattled Bergen police, and indignant over how the charges against her were released to the press before she and her attorney received them. She claims the Bergen police also tapped her telephone for a month during their investigation.

Critics, including local political commentators, claim Drevland, who staunchly denies doing anything wrong, doesn’t seem to recognize the errors of her ways or the seriousness of the charges against her. “As mayor, I think it’s completely natural to try to influence both the government and the ministry,” Drevland said, defending how she merely “prodded along a political process that was already underway, in a case that meant a lot to Bergen.” She reasoned that Bergen and its important industry would greatly benefit from being home port for its own cruise ship.

Now she writes how she has “only a few kroner” to live on every month, “but I’m not alone on that in Norway.” A decision on whether she’ll be indicted is expected before Christmas.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund