Chiyoda-ku mayor invited 150,000 yen course dishes and sake to publicly funded social gatherings

Chiyoda Ward Mayor Invited 150,000 Yen Course Dishes and Sake September 13 19:27

At a meeting held annually by the mayor of Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, inviting more than 100 people, including the town president, we learned from interviews with people concerned that course dishes and sake for around 15,000 yen per person were served free of charge. Although it is fully covered by public funding, the town president’s wife has also been invited, and experts point out that it is “beyond the scope of the meeting and may be suspected of being a donation to voters prohibited by law, even though it is sponsored by the ward.”
Every year from November to December, Chiyoda Ward has held a meeting at the hotel with all the town presidents in the ward.

The invitation was given in the name of Masami Ishikawa, 79, and around 180 people, including the mayor of the ward, participated every year, but at this meeting, we learned from interviews with people concerned that course dishes and sake of around 15,000 yen per person were provided free of charge.

According to the materials obtained by NHK, a full course of French cuisine such as marinated salmon with caviar and griet of beef fillet, as well as drinks such as wine, were served at a meeting in December last year.

The cost of about 3.5 million yen, including the price of the room, was covered entirely by public expense, but the town president’s wife was also invited to the meeting.

In addition, the wife of the ward mayor also participated for at least seven years until 2016.

The ward’s meeting itself began in 1962, but it was in 2002 that The mayor of Ishikawa took office in the form of inviting the town president and his wife at the hotel.

As for this situation, Professor Nobunobu Iwai of the Faculty of Law of Nippon University, who is familiar with the Public Offices Election Law, said, “The amount of money around 15,000 yen per person is too much, and if we invite more husband and wife, it is beyond the scope of the town council meeting. Even though it is organized by the ward, it is possible that the mayor may be suspected of using public money to donate money to voters prohibited by the Public Offices Election Act.”

There was also a meeting invited by a female officer of the town council.

In Chiyoda-ku, a meeting with female officers of the town council, separate from the town president, has been held at the hotel since 2007 after the appointment of the mayor of Ishikawa Ward.

According to interviews with related parties and materials obtained by NHK, there are about 120 participants, including old and new female officers and ward mayors, and in addition to dishes and sake for around 10,000 yen per person, souvenir cakes and pies are also provided free of charge.

About 2 million yen, including the price of the room, was fully financed by the public, and the mayor’s wife also participated for at least seven years until 2016.

When NHK interviewed Tokyo’s 23 wards and government-designated cities across the country, Only Chiyoda Ward held a meeting with female officers separately from the town president.

Voices of the town presidents and residents who participated

A man who is the town president who participates in the meeting of the ward every year said, “I thought that the ward invited me with the meaning of gratitude for the usual activities such as cleaning the town, and participated. I never thought that the content of the meeting was gorgeous or that there was a problem, and I think that such a seat should be about once a year. However, it may be necessary to stop and think about how new residents and the like will take it.”

On the other hand, a woman in her 80s who lives in Chiyoda Ward said, “Invited people usually don’t pay such a high price to eat and drink. I think it’s a matter of whether or not the ward has financial resources that it’s all covered by taxes.”

Expert “Beyond the meeting of the town council”

Prof. Iwai, a professor at Nippon University who is familiar with the Public Offices Election Act, says that although there is no clear standard for the cost of social gatherings organized by local governments, one guideline is that the National Public Service Ethics Act requirs that employees above the assistant section chief receive entertainment of more than 5,000 yen.

On top of that, “There is a current situation where there is no one who can take charge of local activities in large cities, and I think that it is natural that there is a place to aim at those people, but the amount of money of around 15,000 yen per person is too much, and if it invites a couple further, it is beyond the scope of the meeting of the town council. If this is the case, it could be suspected that the ward mayor is using public money to donate money to voters prohibited by the Public Offices Election Act, even though it is organized by the ward. The district council should properly perform its check function and re-waste taxes.”

Mr. Ishikawa, Mayor, “I think it’s a reasonable expenditure.”

About the meeting, Masami Ishikawa, the mayor of Chiyoda Ward, commented to NHK, “It is a valuable place where we can share local issues widely, and we think it is an appropriate expenditure to achieve that purpose.”

What is the situation in Tokyo’s 23 wards and Cabinet Order City?

NHK interviewed Tokyo’s 23 wards and government-designated cities across the country about the status of the meeting, which invited town presidents and self-governing presidents.

Among them, in Tokyo’s 23 wards, in addition to Chiyoda-ku, seven wards of Shinjuku-ku, Chuo-ku, Koto-ku, Ota-ku, Taito-ku, Itabashi-ku, and Edogawa-ku are held with public expense.

In addition, Shinagawa-ku and Arakawa-ku are sponsored by the town council side, not the ward, but the entire cost is covered by the subsidy of the ward.

The cost per participant varies greatly from 1,000 yen in Itabashi-ku to about 10,000 yen in Shinjuku-ku, but Chiyoda-ku was the highest amount.

There was no ward other than Chiyoda Ward that invited the town president’s wife.

In addition, there were several wards that were organized by the town council side and the ward mayors participated at their own expense, and that only tea was offered.

About the meeting in Chiyoda-ku, an executive of another ward said, “It is an impossible response beyond the scope of a general ceremony. Regardless of the financial size of the ward, there is a case that it may be pointed out that it is an unfair expenditure of public money in the resident audit request, and it is not recognized at all in our ward.”

On the other hand, only Kawasaki City and Sendai City responded that they held meetings with food and drink at public expense in government-designated cities nationwide. Both are for people who have served as town presidents for more than 10 years, and the cost per person is about 2000 yen to 3000 yen.

In the past, some rulings ordered local government executives to return their expenses.

Regarding the meeting held by the local government, there has been a ruling in the past that ordered the executives of the local government to return a portion of the cost of food and drink covered by public funds.

In Otsu City, a group of citizens filed a resident lawsuit against the mayors for the return of their expenses, saying that it was illegal to pay about 10,000 yen per person at public expense for a meeting between the mayors at the time and the officers of the local government association held in the five years leading up to 2001.

At that time, Otsu City established a guideline that the public expense burden of the meeting was “within 10,000 yen per person”, and was spending about 500,000 to 600,000 yen every year.

In its 2003 ruling, the Otsu District Court said that it was not immediately illegal to hold a meeting at public expense, but the Local Fiscal Law stipulated that “expenses must not be spent beyond the necessary and minimum limits to achieve the purpose,” and that the National Public Service Ethics Act requires that employees above the assistant section chief receive entertainment exceeding 5,000 yen. At most, up to 6000 yen per person should be a substantial expenditure, and beyond that, it is illegal to deviate from discretion.”

After that, I ordered the mayors at that time to return a total of about 1.1 million yen to the city.

In response to the decision, Otsu City canceled the meeting and revised the outline, and changed the burden of public expenses for food and beverages to “within 6000 yen per person.” Furthermore, three years ago, the government abolished the system itself, which is borne by public money, as “it is better not to spend money that is questioned by citizens.”