Repeated omissions by City of Helsinki in the matter of Malmi Airport

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The Parliamentary Ombudsman has for the fourth time issued a warning to City of Helsinki in the matter of Malmi Airport

The Parliamentary Ombudsman has given the City of Helsinki a fourth warning concerning illegal omissions in the processing of requests for information related to the matter of Malmi Airport. The requests for information assessed in the Ombudsman’s statement have been sent by private citizens and the Friends of Malmi Airport Association.

In her statement, Deputy Ombudsman Maija Sakslin concludes:

“I will confine myself to providing the City of Helsinki with a warning against the above-mentioned illegal omissions in the handling of the complainant’s requests for information.”

In its complaint, the Friends of Malmi Airport asked the Ombudsman to determine whether the City of Helsinki had violated the provisions of Act 621/1999 on Public Access to Information, i.e. whether delays in processing requests for information and failure to disclose documents were repeated offenses under Chapter 40 of the Penal Code.

Previous warnings issued in 2019

In her statement, Sakslin emphasizes the recurrence of omissions and illegality:

“However, given that the city’s failures to comply with the deadlines and procedures of the Public Access Act have been repeated, and the practices have not been corrected to comply with the law despite the promises made and the statements of the supreme legality supervisor, I am specifically bringing my decision to the attention of the City Board. In addition, I bring to the attention of City of Helsinki my view of the above-mentioned failure to respond to the complainant’s inquiries and the failure to process the administrative appeal as a matter of urgency.

Significant delays

In her statement, the Parliamentary Ombudsman states, among other things:

“According to the final minutes published on the City of Helsinki’s website, the Urban Environment Committee had 11 meetings between the beginning of June 2019 and October 22, 2019. Nevertheless, the administrative appeal, which was initiated on 31 May 2019, was not resolved until the 12th meeting of the Committee, and the matter thus took more than four months to process. In my view, the processing of the administrative appeal did not meet the requirement laid down in the Municipal Act to process it as a matter of urgency. ”

Sakslin has investigated the matter on several occasions.

“I had in my decision on March 29th and on 30 April 2019 stated that the procedure of City of Helsinki for processing requests for information concerning Malmi Airport did not meet the requirements set out in the Public Access to Information Act. I considered the City’s procedure illegal and informed the City of my opinion on the procedures laid down in the law, and gave the City a warning against its unlawful omissions. At the time, the City had stated in its reports that it had drawn the attention of the Urban Environment Division to the processing times provided for in the Public Access to Information Act and to the requirements of the administrative service principle. ”

Timo Hyvönen, Chairman of the Friends of Malmi Airport Association that made the complaint, considers the punishment to be lenient:

“We were already waiting for a stricter outcome, but I understand why the end result is once again just a warning. The situation is also difficult for the Ombudsman, as Helsinki is the capital of Finland. In the future, the leadership of Helsinki’s civil service should pull itself together and comply with the law also in matters concerning Malmi Airport, so that we can make good progress together. ”

The City of Helsinki is planning housing construction in its northeastern part. As part of the planning area, the City also aims to use the area of Helsinki-Malmi Airport for housing construction and to terminate aviation operations. According to a recent opinion poll, as many as 67 per cent of Helsinki residents are in favor of continuing aviation (TNS Gallup 11/2020).

Decision of the Parliamentary Ombudsman (in Finnish): https://www.malmiairport.fi/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/EOAK-6391-2019-PAATOS_final.pdf

TNS Gallup opinion poll 11/2020

Previous warnings

In his decision of 29 March 2019 (EOAK / 403/2018), the Parliamentary Ombudsman issued a warning to the City of Helsinki’s Urban Environment Division regarding an illegal procedure in processing a request for documents. The complainant’s request for documents was not processed according to the law, as it took longer than the specified maximum time to to receive the first reply to the request, and almost one and a half months to reach a challengeable decision.

In his decision of 30 April 2019 (EOAK / 1170/2019), the Parliamentary Ombudsman found that when the complainant’s request for information on a matter in the register, filed on 2 September 2017, was not answered until 14 December 2017 by sending him the requested extract, the procedure did not comply with the Public Access to Information Act. The Parliamentary Ombudsman informed the City of Helsinki of its failure to comply with the deadlines laid down in the Public Access to Information Act and of the authority’s duty to respond without delay.

In his decision of 30 April 2019 (EOAK / 1430/2018), the Parliamentary Ombudsman found that the City of Helsinki had not acted according to the Public Access to Information Act in handling the complainant’s requests for information. The complainant’s request for information on 16 October 2017 was not fulfilled until 4 May 2018. The Parliamentary Ombudsman gave the City of Helsinki a warning for unlawful omissions in processing the complainant’s requests for information.

The Friends of Malmi Airport Association has sent the matter to the City of Helsinki Inspection Board for clarification and action.