Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike on Friday announced disciplinary action for 18 current and former Tokyo Metropolitan Government officials who she believes were responsible for the ongoing Toyosu market fiasco.
Although the punishment may be only symbolic — pay cuts ranging from 10 to 20 percent over several months, plus cuts to Koike’s own salary — the governor hopes the decision will help regain public trust in the city government.
Given the decision, Mitsuru Nakanishi, who has been singled out in the investigation and is now deputy governor, reportedly plans to resign over the scandal.
During a regular news conference at the City Hall in Shinjuku Ward, Koike said that the 12 current and six former officials violated the local public service law.
She said the officials took part in the preparations to move the famed Tsukiji fish market to the Toyosu area in Koto Ward, including the critical soil remediation work. The parcel of land, which previously was the site of a Tokyo Gas Co. refinery, were heavily contaminated with benzene, mercury and cyanide. The officials were in charge of soil remediation.
“They made decisions that contradicted the metropolitan government’s policy based on recommendations of outside safety experts, and misinformed the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly,” Koike said in explaining her decision.
Instead of placing layers of soil to insulate the market against contamination, the officials approved a plan to build hollow basements beneath the main buildings.
Koike has concluded that the decision to scrap the original plan, as recommended by a panel of outside experts, was made during an internal meeting in August 2011.
She decided to punish all officials in managerial and higher positions who coordinated and oversaw the project from start to finish.
Their actions have been scrutinized during a probe Koike ordered in September amid concerns over food safety at the new site. It is believed their decisions hindered the relocation plans.
“We have to admit it is crucial misconduct,” Koike said of their failure to insert the clean soil layers. She added that such misconduct is and should be subject to punishment at all types of organizations.
Koike said officials in the higher ranks should face pay cuts equal to 10 percent of their base salary for a period of one month, to 20 percent of their salary for six months.
In addition to Nakanishi, Koike fingered Kiyomi Shiomi, who is head of Tokyo’s Bureau of Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games Preparation.
Given that six former officials subject to disciplinary action no longer work for the governor, Koike urged them to take responsibility by voluntarily returning the same amount of money.
“I believe they are aware of their responsibilities,” Koike told reporters.
As current Tokyo governor, Koike has also decided to cut one-fifth of her own salary three months.
“As the head of the metro government, I believe I need to draw a clear line,” Koike said of her decision, adding that she hopes it will help win back the public’s trust.
She also apologized to Tokyo’s citizens and the wholesalers at Tsukiji.
The market was slated to open on Nov. 7, but that has been postponed by the scandal.
Last week, Koike said City Hall would decide next summer whether to proceed or scrap the project altogether.