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Taitung County magistrate tenders resignation

Scandal-plagued Wu still eligible to contest by-election to be held within three months

Taitung County magistrate tenders resignation
Taitung County Magistrate Wu Chun-li, who was suspended from office because of his involvement in corruption scandals, yesterday tendered his resignation, a development that renders a by-election necessary within three months.

Vice Interior Minister Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said his agency received Wu's resignation yesterday afternoon, adding it will hold a by-election within three months to fill Wu's vacancy in keeping with rules covering local government administration.

Wu, who is appealing the ministry's decision to suspend him from office, is eligible to join the by-election and may not be barred from exercising his duties if he wins the second time, according to the local government rules.

The same rules allow the central government to suspend winners of local elections from office if they have been convicted by high courts on corruption charges. Wu, who won the Taitung magistrate post on December 3, has been convicted of profiteering during his tenure as Taitung County councilor. He was suspended December 20 immediately after he was sworn in.

The embattled magistrate did not comment on his resignation as of press time though he earlier sought to retain his power by naming his ex-wife Kuang Li-chen as deputy magistrate. Wu divorced Kuang a day before he took office to sidestep rules regarding conflict of interests.

The ministry has refused to recognize the legality of Kuang's appointment and named County Secretary-General Lai Shun-hsien to carry out Wu's duties instead.

Lo Jui-chin, an official in the ministry's civil affairs department, said the government must hold a by-election because Wu has yet to serve half of his four-year tenure.

Still, Wu will have to go to jail if the Supreme Court finds him guilty of corruption in the future. The suspended magistrate was a former Kuomintang member but joined the December 3 election as an independent to avoid tarnishing the opposition party's image.

Several KMT legislators have voiced sympathy for Wu's plight and branded the suspension politically motivated. KMT lawmaker Huang Cien-ting, who represents Taitung County, said he will not seek the party's nomination for the by-election unless Wu decides not to run.