The ire of Tokyo taxpayers appears ready to be raised yet again.
Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe, who tendered his resignation Wednesday over a political funds scandal, will receive as much as ¥22 million in retirement allowances after his last day in office on June 21, officials at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said.
Over the past few months, the beleaguered governor has been roundly criticized for his use of millions of yen in taxpayer funds for private purposes.
But regardless of behavior and performance in office, a governor’s retirement allowance is determined solely by their monthly salary, as dictated by law, and the number of months served in the position.
Masuzoe resigned Wednesday after major parties at the assembly threatened him in concert with the prospect of a no-confidence motion that would have forced his exit. Yet regardless of how his departure transpired, the governor will receive full payment of his retirement allowance, the officials said.
If a governor is convicted in a criminal case, their retirement allowance can be lowered or canceled altogether, according to two relevant allowance ordinances enacted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.
But, bizarrely, the final arbiter in such cases is the convicted governor who stands to receive it, the ordinances state.
Masuzoe and two lawyers he hired to probe his spending have admitted that political entities, whose key member was Masuzoe himself, spentabout ¥4.4 million of their funds on Masuzoe’s private purposes.
Voters are particularly enraged because the key revenue source used for the private spending was official government subsidies for registered political parties. It appears that Masuzoe wined, dined and bought numerous works of art via online auctions using taxpayers’ money.
Many questions surrounding the suspicious expenses remain unanswered, yet as of this writing Masuzoe has refused to face reporters, shunning even the final news conference that would conclude his term of two years and four months.
On Wednesday, reporters from major media outlets jointly requested that Masuzoe hold a news conference on his resignation, but the governor declined.
Masuzoe and his lawyers have maintained that no illegal conduct was involved, because neither the Political Funds Control Law, nor any other law, contains criteria regarding the activities on which political funds can be spent.
Some assembly members, meanwhile, have argued that some entries in official political funding reports from Masuzoe’s groups were false, and thus violated the Political Funds Control Law.
For example, one of the groups affiliated with Masuzoe spent a total of ¥371,100 at a resort hotel in Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture, on one day in 2013 and another in 2014. In the group’s official funding report, Masuzoe recorded the expense as “conference fees” despite staying at the hotel with his family.
Masuzoe insisted he met at the hotel with the president of an unnamed publishing company, an individual some domestic media have speculated had died prior to that time. Masuzoe claimed the meeting was part of his public duties, hence the “conference fees” record.
But he has refused to identify the president or explain what exactly was discussed during the meeting, which has only deepened public anger and suspicion over the nature of the hotel stay.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5