Although 23 newly elected county magistrates and mayors are to be sworn in today, Wu Chun-li, who won the election for Taitung County magistrate, will become the shortest-serving magistrate in Taiwan's history because he wiil be suspended for involvement in a corruption scandal.
The Executive Yuan last night appointed incumbent Taitung County Government Secretary-general Lai Hsun-hsiung to be the acting magistrate for the county until a new magistrate is elected.
Ministry of the Interior officials said yesterday that Wu will be suspended because he was sentenced in a High Court trial to 7-1/2 years in prison for involvement in a corruption scandal during his tenure as county council speaker. In his first trial, at the district court, he was found guilty and given a 13 year sentence.
After Wu received the information, he issued a statement, saying the MOI's decision to suspend was improper.
Wu is appealing his corruption verdict, but regulations stipulate that people who are convicted of corruption and run for elected official posts should be barred from taking office after they win.
MOI said Wu can only return to his post if and when a higher court acquits him. It's unclear when that court will hand down a verdict.
If Wu resigns, a new election must be held within three months to pick a new magistrate; if by then Wu's verdict still has not been handed down, he will be eligible to run. But if he is found guilty in the third and final trial, he will lose his right to run for any public office, according to local government law.
The government also pointed out that Wu will not have the right to appoint a deputy once he has been suspended as magistrate.
But Wu said the government should hold a meeting to discuss whether the county magistrate should be suspended after he is sworn in.
Wu criticized the central government's decision to suspend him from his post as improper since the existing laws on the matter are, he claimed, vague and controversial, as they do not stipulate what should be done if a person is still in the process of appealing.
And he said he is the rightful magistrate because Taitung residents elected him to be the county's chief. Wu's staff said he still intends to be sworn in today as the scheduled.
However, the Cabinet last night appointed incumbent Taitung County Government Secretary-general Lai Hsun-hsiung as acting magistrate for the county until a new magistrate is elected.
Cabinet Secretary-general Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) said the Executive Yuan appointed Lai as acting magistrate for the county in order to prevent the county's affairs from being suspended. The MOI will announce today that Wu should be suspended as magistrate, Cho said.
The Taitung County Council was informed September 28 by the MOI that Wu would be suspended as magistrate if he ran and won the December 3 election.
Before the December 3 election, Wu's opponent Liu Chao-hao had warned that Taitung residents might have to pay extra political and social costs if the county had to hold a second magistrate election to fill Wu's vacancy.