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Mayor, deputy mayor of city in Fukuoka Pref. to resign over gambling scandal

Iizuka Mayor Morichika Saito (Mainichi)

IIZUKA, Fukuoka -- The mayor and deputy mayor of this city announced on Jan. 11 that they will resign on Jan. 31 after an outcry about their gambling at mahjong during the office hours of general employees.

    Mayor Morichika Saito, 68, and Deputy Mayor Hideaki Tanaka, 69, made the announcement of their upcoming resignations. Saito held a press conference at the city office building, where he said, "I thought it best if I stepped down to settle the situation."

    The two have submitted resignation requests to the speaker of the municipal assembly, and in accordance with the Public Offices Election Act a mayoral election will be held within 50 days of Jan. 12. Saito denied he would run for mayor again in the upcoming election.

    Saito said he had been gambling at mahjong since becoming mayor in 2006, but claimed that the only time he did so during weekday daylight hours was one time in January last year. Tanaka has reportedly been gambling at mahjong during the day on weekdays for some years now. They bet around 10,000 yen per day, and among the fellow players was a person running a funeral business who was selected to manage a public facility of the city starting in April this year.

    After the gambling came to light in December last year, Saito said at a press conference, "How many people are there who play mahjong without gambling on it?" The city received over 1,000 protests and complaints.

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