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Western Japan mayor apologizes for verbally abusing subordinate

Mayor Fusaho Izumi apologizes at a press conference in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, on Jan. 29, 2019. (Mainichi/Toshihiro Hamamoto)

AKASHI, Hyogo -- The mayor of this city in western Japan acknowledged in a Jan. 29 press conference at city hall here that he verbally abused a senior city official and apologized for his remarks that he said were "unacceptable" as a mayor.

According to officials of the city of Akashi in Hyogo Prefecture, Mayor Fusaho Izumi told a senior municipal official in charge of a stalled property acquisition effort for a road-widening project on June 14, 2017, "Go turn the people out. Go set (the building) on fire and get arrested today."

Mayor Izumi, 55, told reporters at the municipal office that he confirmed what he said in 2017 by listening to a recording of his remarks on Jan. 28. "I made unacceptable statements as a mayor. I'm sorry for the citizens. I feel a deep responsibility." The mayor acknowledged that those remarks "surpassed power harassment," but denied day-to-day harassment of subordinates.

According to the Akashi Municipal Government, the city was entrusted by the national government to widen a section of National Route 2 near an intersection close to JR Akashi Station, to prevent traffic accidents. The city began buying land for the project in fiscal 2012, but negotiations on some of the needed plots didn't go ahead as planned.

Izumi became enraged when he found out about the delay, summoning the city official to his office and making disparaging remarks, said city officials. After learning that purchase prices had not been presented to the owners, Izumi rebuked the senior official, saying, "What are you doing? Stop messing around." The subordinate apologized, but the mayor continued, "Go burn down the building right now. Pay the damages yourself."

The negotiation was concluded the next month and the project is currently making progress. On Jan. 28, the mayor explained that he became emotional because traffic accidents happened at the site and he thought, "What will happen if someone dies before the intersection is made safe."

Izumi had declared he would seek a third term as mayor in the election set for April this year. The mayor told the Jan. 29 press conference that he should be reprimanded for his remarks but said, "The mayoral election is approaching, and I would like to ask voters to make their judgment," he said.

(Japanese original by Toshihiro Hamamoto, Akashi Local Bureau)

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