Case against mayor over school demolition dropped

Kyodo

Prosecutors on Thursday dropped their case against the mayor of Toyosato, Shiga Prefecture, and seven workers for starting demolition work on a historical school building in the town despite a provisional ruling by the Otsu District Court to spare the building.

The Otsu District Public Prosecutor’s Office cited insufficient evidence for dropping the case against Mayor Wasaburo Ono and the seven demolition workers. The police sent the case to prosecutors in January. The eight allegedly damaged the 67-year-old art deco Toyosato Elementary School.

The school, designed by U.S. architect William Merrell Vories (1880-1964), was at the center of a standoff between town authorities, who were pushing for the demolition, and local residents who opposed it.

Masao Okazaki, the office’s deputy chief prosecutor, said it would be difficult to establish a case of property damage because Ono virtually has a custodial right over the school, and proceeded with the demolition work based on that right.

Ono, 48, reportedly told prosecutors he took the action because he believed he had the right to do so.

The prosecutors also decided not to prosecute one of the seven workers for hurting a woman by shoving her during the demolition work. They said the woman sustained a minor injury.

On Dec. 19, 2002, the district court issued an injunction to suspend demolition work on the school. But the next day, Ono ignored the injunction, tearing down parts of the building.

Residents subsequently filed a criminal complaint against him with the Shiga Prefectural Police.

Police officials had said that they sent the case to prosecutors in the belief that the custodial right of the public school building had been transferred to the court from the mayor following the court order.