NAHA -- Okinawa Vice Gov. Mitsuo Ageda may have attempted to influence the prefectural board of education to pass particular applicants in tests held in 2015 for public teaching positions, it was reported by a local media outlet on Jan. 18.
Ageda has denied the allegations, telling the media, "I would never do that, and I have no memory of doing so."
Ageda became vice governor in December 2014 at the same time that Gov. Takeshi Onaga took office. He has been a negotiator for Onaga with the national government, with which the Okinawa Prefectural Government has been at odds over the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago in Okinawa Prefecture. If the current scandal develops into a question of whether Ageda should resign or not, it could be a large blow to Onaga's administration.
According to the report by the Okinawa Times, Ageda is suspected of summoning at least one prefectural education board employee to his office and handing them notes with the names and identification numbers of applicants and also making phone calls, attempting to have the applicants passed.
The prefectural board of education denies that it granted favors to Ageda. However, an insider source with the board of education at the time told the Mainichi Shimbun that the allegations are true.
On Jan. 18, Ageda told reporters that he would talk to a lawyer. Regarding whether he would resign, he said, "I am very displeased with the reporting, but I feel sorry for causing trouble for the Onaga administration. I will look at how things develop and then decide (whether or not to resign)."
At Naha Airport, Onaga told the media that Ageda had reported to him about the issue, and said, "I don't know the facts yet. Ageda says he doesn't remember doing it."
According to the prefectural board of education, there were 4,404 applicants for its teaching positions in 2015, and 451 people passed. Its school personnel department says that in the testing process the names and identification numbers of the applicants are hidden from those grading the essay tests, and the applicants are interviewed by multiple examiners, so the testing process cannot be carried out dishonestly.