Hanna Marcussen, Oslo’s top politician in charge of city planning and development, is caught up in a probe of her involvement with 252 decisions in 71 building projects since she took office in 2015. She’s charged with conflicts of interest, since her sister and her brother are both architects in firms tied to the projects.
Kommunal Rapport was the first to report on what’s led to a need for all 252 decisions to be re-examined by an external law firm at a cost of NOK 800,000. Since Marcussen has overall responsibility for the city’s powerful planning and development agency (Plan- og bygningsetaten, PBE), both PBE and Marcussen are already considered to have had a conflict of interest when decisions were made.
“Given the conflicts of interest, it was wrong that PBE made decisions in these cases,” the agency’s new director Siri Gauthun Kielland told state broadcaster NRK, which reported on what some now call a “scandal” on Tuesday.
Marcussen insists she has done nothing wrong. “I have always thought I had a conflict of interest in all projects involving LPO Architects and those in which my sister in Asplan Viak is directly involved,” Marcussen told NRK. She claims she informed city administrators about her siblings’ work the day after she took office in the fall of 2015, and assumed the administration “had routines for following that up.” It ended up taking the city’s administration three years before another politician was appointed to function for Marcussen in the cases where she had a conflict.
Even though Marcussen blames the administration, she remains legally responsible, according to law professor Jan Fridtjof Bernt at the University of Bergen. Whether she’ll be punished hinges, he said, “on how clear she was in her messages and how good she was at making sure this was followed up.”