• Kyodo

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Police have questioned the mayor of the town of Toyosato, Shiga Prefecture, on suspicion of ignoring a court order and damaging a historic school building, it was learned Wednesday.

Mayor Wasaburo Ono, 47, has denied the allegations but the Shiga Prefectural Police intend to send the case to prosecutors, sources said.

Police received a complaint from local residents that the mayor attempted to demolish the school in December, even though the Otsu District Court had issued an injunction to preserve the building, citing its historic significance.

The art deco school, built in 1937, was designed by American architect William Merrell Vories (1880-1964), who was also a prominent missionary and entrepreneur.

The residents alleged that Ono ordered workers to smash the windows of Toyosato Elementary School’s main hall Dec. 20, a day after the district court issued the injunction.

The police found during their investigations Dec. 25 that the windows on the first and second floors had been broken, and launched an investigation suspecting the damage to the windows was illegal.

The protest began after Ono attempted in December to demolish the 3,500-sq.-meter building housing the school, saying the historic structure could not withstand a major earthquake. He said he planned to erect a new school building in its place.

Ono, ousted in a local referendum in March over the issue but re-elected the following month, said he had sought public support for his plan.

The mayor later reversed his initial plan and declared he would preserve the building, but said he would go ahead and build a new structure anyway.