Tokyo assembly member indicted for driving without a license, refuses to resign

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Fumiko Kinoshita speaks to the media at the Tokyo metropolitan assembly on Nov. 9.

Tokyo metropolitan assembly member Fumiko Kinoshita was indicted without arrest Friday on a charge of driving without a valid license. She was allegedly involved in a car crash on July 2 in which two people sustained injuries.

Kinoshita, 55, whose driving license was suspended at the time, was suspected of fleeing the scene after the accident, which occurred during the metropolitan assembly election campaign.

The Metropolitan Police Department has sent papers on Kinoshita to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of violating the Road Traffic Law. However, the prosecutor’s office will only seek prosecution for the charge of driving without a valid license. It has decided not to pursue charges such as fleeing the scene of an accident.

According to the indictment, Kinoshita drove a car without a valid license seven times between May and July in Itabashi and Shinjuku wards, Tokyo.

If Kinoshita is found guilty and receives a custodial sentence, she will lose her position in the Tokyo assembly in accordance with the laws.

Assembly members have urged her to resign since the accident came to light after the election, but she has refused.

The assembly and Tokyo metropolitan government have received more than 4,000 complaints about the issue.

The steering committee of the Tokyo metropolitan assembly met Thursday to question Kinoshita about the accident, but she did not appear, citing poor health.

The committee decided to meet again on Wednesday.

“I want Kinoshita to directly explain her thoughts on the recommendation to resign,” committee chair Anri Komiya said.

Kinoshita was elected on July 4 with the third-largest vote count in the five-seat Itabashi Ward constituency.

Her first appearance at the assembly office since being elected was on Nov. 9, after two resolutions urging her to resign had been passed. She attempted to attend a meeting of the Public Enterprise Committee of which she is a member, but the meeting was canceled due to objections from other assembly members.

She has claimed that poor health is the reason for her long absence from the assembly.

She told reporters at the assembly she did not intend to resign. “The fact is, there are people who say they want me to continue [to be an assembly member],” she said.

According to the metropolitan assembly secretariat, members receive about ¥1.32 million per month, which includes expenses for political activities.

As of November, Kinoshita has been paid a total of ¥5.28 million. If she is still a member of the assembly on Dec. 1, she will receive a year-end bonus of more than ¥2 million.

Kinoshita said she has been advised by the assembly’s Election Administration Commission and donated about ¥1.92 million of what she received to a nonprofit organization. However, a commission official said, “There was no discussion about who should receive the donation. We don’t know anything about the recipient.”

The Local Autonomy Law stipulates that an assembly member can be punished with expulsion with the approval of at least three-quarters of the members in attendance.

However, according to the assembly secretariat and others, it would be difficult to punish a member for their conduct outside the assembly or for absence due to ill health, based on precedents.

Voters cannot initiate a recall until one year after the election.

The situation has prompted calls among some assembly members for expulsion to be considered as a punishment for reasons such as absence from committee meetings.

“If the assembly doesn’t take a strong stance, we’ll bear the brunt of the criticism,” said an assembly member.