The mayor of the northwest coastal city of Kristiansund has gone on sick leave and been replaced by the city’s acting mayor, after he was charged and fined NOK 12,000 (USD 1600) for sexually offensive behaviour. The offense reportedly occurred in the summer of 2013 and the mayor agreed to pay the fine, but denies guilt.
Per Kristian Øyen of the Labour Party is now off the job at least through the rest of this month. State broadcaster NRK reported Thursday that his replacement, Kjell Neergaard, is prepared to continue functioning as mayor as the case against Øyen unfolds.
“Kristiansund deserves a mayor who has full focus on the tough processes in which the city is involved,” Neergaard told NRK. “This case is sad and difficult for all of us, but I have to focus on the budget and other important matters.”
Neergaard, also from the Labour Party, said it was impossible to say when or if Øyen will return to his position as mayor. “Right now he is on sick leave for a month, but I’m prepared that I may need to stay on (as acting mayor) longer.”
Øyen, who was first reported to police last spring, was not up for reelection as a candidate for Labour in the upcoming municipal elections this fall. The head of the Labour Party for the district of Møre og Romdal said the party was “shocked” upon learning that Øyen was under police investigation last summer.
Neergaard was later selected to replace Øyen as Labour’s candidate last fall. He declined further comment on Øyen’s situation, calling it a “personal case,” while he preferred to concentrate on politics.