Scoop! The complaint against Hadano City Mayor for “alleged violation of the Public Election Law” had been accepted!
Daisuke Ito, a city councilor of Hadano City, Kanagawa Prefecture, was supported by a big-name lawyer who investigated the "Recruit Case" during his time as a special investigator with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office.
On January 23 this year, incumbent Mayor Masakazu Takahashi (65) was elected for a second term in the mayoral election held in Hadano, Kanagawa Prefecture. However, it was later discovered that on the day of the vote, the Takahashi mayoral campaign had posted a message on its official LINE account calling for votes for itself. However, Daisuke Ito, 46, a new independent city councilor, felt that the Hadano City Council was not “purifying itself” by tolerating the problem and not holding Mayor Takahashi accountable at a “public forum,” despite the fact that many councilors had received these LINE messages. The complaint was filed with the Yokohama District Public Prosecutor’s Office in June. FRIDAY Digital has learned that the complaint was accepted in early June.
The fact that the posting calling for votes for Mayor Takahashi was made on January 23, the day of the election, is a violation of Article 129 of the Public Offices Election Law. Nevertheless, in his answer after the incident was discovered, Mayor Takahashi made the unnatural statement, “The election office staff member responsible for distributing the line and the SNS administrator did it, and we found out after the fact what was posted. The Election Commission’s only answer was ambiguous: ‘We have no authority to investigate.
Elections are the most important opportunity for citizens to participate in politics and reflect their will as sovereign citizens. This is a situation where someone should be punished because there is already evidence in this case, but no one will be punished if the situation continues. That is an unhealthy situation in a democratic society. So I have been thinking about what I can do as a city council member to the best of my ability.
What kind of action did Mr. Ito take? On June 14, we directly interviewed Mr. Ito, who asked Mayor Takahashi a general question about campaigning using LINE at a Hadano City Council meeting. In response to the reporter’s question, “Are you thinking of filing charges?” to which he replied, “Actually, I heard from my lawyer that it was accepted (by the Yokohama District Public Prosecutor’s Office) in June.
Ito City Council member’s lawyer is a former skillful prosecutor who investigated the recruiting case.
Why did Ito, a city council member who was just elected for the first time in 2019, feel compelled to sue Mayor Takahashi?
First, let’s look back at what happened on the day of the vote, January 23. At around 1:28 p.m. on the same day, a LINE post was made from Mayor Takahashi’s official LINE account, along with a picture of Mayor Takahashi with a child, requesting that people vote for him, as shown below.
Citizens soon became aware of the fact that the LINE message had been spread. On March 14, a petition with 164 signatures was submitted to the chairman of the Hadano City Council, demanding confirmation of the facts, an investigation into the truth, and the publication of the results of the investigation.
Two days later, on March 16, based on the written request, Junzo Hiroki, a member of the Hadano City Council (who died on June 9), directly questioned Mayor Takahashi at a plenary session of the city council. The mayor replied, “The person in charge of distribution of (my LINE) official account tried to make a test distribution to the person in charge of SNS management in order to confirm the content in advance, but mistakenly made the main distribution.
On June 14, Councilor Ito directly pursued Mayor Takahashi for about 40 minutes during a general question at the Hadano City Council meeting. Again, he repeatedly tried to explain to Mayor Takahashi that the “person in charge of LINE distribution,” who was selected from his own administrative staff, creates the postings, the “person in charge of administration” checks the contents, and if there are no problems, the “person in charge of LINE distribution” posts the message. The content of the postings was left up to the two of them, and Mayor Takahashi himself did not look over the contents in advance.
At the same general questioning session, Councilor Ito also asked the Election Administration Committee whether or not the act of posting a ballot-poll request on the day of the election constituted a violation of the law. He did not even state whether his opinion was “white or black.” The chairmanship should be filled by someone who is properly competent as a facilitator,” Ito said.
I know we cannot pursue criminal responsibility in our position. But the council should be able to pursue political responsibility. But unfortunately, if such ‘vague’ answers continue, we will not be able to fulfill our accountability to the citizens as council members.” (Ito, city council member)
Such thoughts were the driving force behind this specific action, and the seriousness with which they were going to pursue the matter was also evident in their choice of attorney when filing the complaint. The lawyer, Yasuyuki Takai, is a former highly-skilled prosecutor who also investigated the Recruit case and other cases during his time in the Special Investigation Department of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office. Now that Councilor Ito has decided that there is no way to “cleanse himself,” what is the best way to investigate the personal information of Hadano’s top authority figure? There is a need to file a complaint not with the Hadano Police Station in the same city, but with “outside” authorities such as the Yokohama District Public Prosecutors Office and Kanagawa Prefectural Police Headquarters. It was exactly like putting a heavyweight boxing champion against a welterweight boxing champion.
Ito, who was first elected to the Hadano City Council in 2019, is still active as a professional photographer, having published a collection of photographs, taken advertising photos for major companies, and photographed many celebrities. Based in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he has taken photographs of people living in poverty in order to inform the public about the inequality in Brazil, and his work has been featured on the TV program “Crazy Journey,” etc. He even had the MC, Hitoshi Matsumoto of Downtown Japan, commenting, “The pressure [he exerts] as a person is incredible.
If it is judged to be a crime, I have no intention of shirking my responsibility.
After living in Brazil for 10 years, he returned to Japan in the summer of 2016. Ito, a city councilor originally from Sendai, began living in the nature-rich city of Hadano, where his wife’s family lived. One day, however, he learned of a proposed plan to build a factory for a major beverage manufacturer on his children’s path to school and a new, large road around it.
However, despite the 4.6 billion yen of city taxpayers’ money that would be invested in the project, the merits and demerits of the proposed project were not discussed, and I was concerned that politics would give priority to the interests of a few people with vested interests. A few months later, he ran for the Hadano City Council election in August 2019 and won his first election. The biggest driving force behind his candidacy, he says, was anger.
Despite the fact that a petition with the signatures of some 2,500 citizens against the proposed plan was submitted to the city council, it was “left for distribution to council members” and was not even discussed at the council meeting. In May of last year, city council member Ito told FRIDAY Digital, “The city council members at the time and the city council did not have a chance to discuss the plan.
I was not taken seriously by the city council members and the city council at the time. From that time on, I felt that the Hadano City Council at that time had a structural problem that could be described as a ‘top-down approach with a conclusion. In the end, anything that was inconvenient would be swept under the rug and covered up by the Council Steering Committee, which was made up of representatives from each faction, or by the Council of Representatives. However, I strongly felt that if the structural problems of Hadano City were not resolved, there was a strong possibility that similar problems would occur again, and that is why I decided to run for office.
Since his election, Ito has worked tirelessly to defeat vested interests by withdrawing existing land readjustment projects and reviewing subsidies, and has campaigned on such issues as making finances more visible, “Children’s Land of Hadano,” local production for local consumption and school lunches, reform of work styles, and gender equality. Unfortunately, however, the structural problem of the “top-down approach with a conclusion” that motivated Ito’s candidacy cannot be changed by a single unaffiliated newcomer due to the “principle of numbers. The “initial intention at the time of my election” was to “freshen up the City Council! This single-minded desire to “keep the original intention when he was elected” is reflected in the determination of Council Member Ito, who took action alone.
Meanwhile, we wondered how Mayor Takahashi and the person in charge of distributing the LINE felt about the criminal complaint filed against them by Ito, to which FRIDAY Digital received the following response through the Secretarial Division of the Policy Department at Hadano City Hall.
After stating that he was “unaware ” that the complaint against Ito had been accepted by the Yokohama District Public Prosecutors Office, he continued, “With regard to this matter, we have submitted a complaint to the Yokohama District Public Prosecutors Office.
He continued, “Regarding this matter, we have said that we would cooperate in any way if the person responsible for the distribution of the materials files a report with the police, explains the situation, and is investigated, without the need for a complaint to be filed.
If this is a crime, neither the person responsible for distribution nor I have any intention of shirking our responsibility. In any case, I would like to express my deepest apologies for the great inconvenience and concern I have caused to many of you regarding my own election.”
This is an unusual situation in which a first-term city council member, who has been elected for three years, is suing the mayor’s camp, which holds the most power in the city. How will the case be settled? We can’t take our eyes off the investigation.