Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir has responded to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, again, and the facts brought to light may implicate her in breaking official government regulations.
As reported, sources who spoke to DV said that Hanna Birna spoke with Commissioner of the Capital Area Police Stefán Eiríksson while he was still involved with the investigation of her ministry, allegedly trying to influence the investigations. It is reported he shared this information with a few close colleagues, and with the State Prosecutor. Shortly thereafter, Stefán resigned from his post, taking on a new job as Department Head of the Social Welfare Department for the City of Reykjavík.
This prompted Parliamentary Ombudsman Tryggvi Gunnarsson to ask the Interior Minister if and when these exchanges took place. Last month, Hanna Birna responded that she met with Stefán four times, and called him as well. On these occasions, she said she discussed with Stefán, amongst other things, “the security of the documents that police had access to” that did not pertain to the investigations, and also “when one might expect that the investigations will be over.”
Tryggvi, in turn, requested further clarification. Specifically, he asked to know the exact dates and times Hanna Birna and Stefán had their meetings and phone conversations; why the calls and meetings took place, and who invited whom to meet; copies of all the investigative requests for ministry documents made by the police last February, and when the ministry responded to these requests; and which of these meetings or phone calls were officially recorded in ministry files, as required by the Registration Rules of Communications in the Iceland Government.
Today – the final day Hanna Birna had to respond – the Interior Minister responded to the Ombudsman’s questions.
In the response, the Minister says she met with Stefán on March 18, May 3, July 16 and July 18. The purpose of the first two meetings, she says, were to “inform me in general of police and security matters”, as she contends is a part of her job as the official head of the police force. The other two meetings, though, entailed the Ministry inviting Stefán to speak with the Minister – the first meeting, to discuss Stefán’s application to be the new director of the Icelandic Transport Authority, and the second meeting, the discuss his withdrawal of said application. Hanna Birna contends Stefán then informed her of his decision to seek a position with the City of Reykjavík, and that they also discussed “how he wanted to conduct himself at the end of his career as police commissioner”.
The Interior Minister attached the documents requested by the Ombudsman, although they are not available for public viewing, as they are considered sensitive to security issues.
Regarding the Ombudsman’s final request for the legally-required official records of these exchanges between Hanna Birna and Stefán, the Interior Minister responded that, technically speaking, the regulations specify that communications related to “official communications and official meetings” need to be registered. By this reasoning, the meetings which happened on March 18 and May 3 and her phone conversations with Stefán were not official, and thus did not require recording.
It should also be noted that May 3 was a Saturday – when the Ministry is normally closed – the day after DV reported that Hanna Birna and her two assistants, Þórey Vilhjálmsdóttir and Gísli Freyr Valdórsson, had been questioned by the police.
However, the meetings which took place July 16 and 18 did related to official matters, but were not recorded anywhere but in the “ministerial journal”. These meetings may therefore constitute a violation of official ministerial regulations.
A response from the Parliamentary Ombudsman is still pending.
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