Votes-for-promotions scandal breaks in Miryang

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Votes-for-promotions scandal breaks in Miryang

Police detained a Miryang public-service worker on Tuesday on charges of intentionally leaking Mayor Um Yong-Su’s e-mail messages to a mayoral hopeful who will compete with him in the June elections.

Just a day before, the South Gyeongsang Election Commission had asked prosecutors to investigate two other public-service workers for promising votes in return for promotions.

Miryang police said the detained worker, an information and communications officer surnamed Heo, accessed e-mail messages between Um and five public-service workers, only two of whom are currently under investigation. Heo printed out e-mail messages between Um and his staff in which workers promised votes, and handed them over to Um’s opponent, surnamed Park.

Um has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Police said Heo was able to get Um’s e-mail password by telling an electronic document officer that he needed it for his official duties. He secretly monitored Um’s e-mail from Jan. 5 to 13 and discovered the messages sent by the public service workers. Heo printed out the messages and handed them to Park, who will run for the mayor’s office in June.

Shortly thereafter, the Election Commission in South Gyeongsang received a phone call from someone thought to support Park. The man said he had proof that two public service workers had told Um via e-mail that in return for a promotion, they would guarantee support from other district heads who would campaign for him in June. The Election Commission’s investigation determined that Heo was at the center of the scandal, and he was dismissed from the government on Jan. 14. The next day, the commission reported him to police.

On Monday, the commission filed complaints with the Changwon District Prosecutor’s Office, asking that two other public-service workers in addition to Heo be investigated for allegedly lobbying other workers to help get Um reelected. It is against the law for civil servants to lobby for candidates.

The workers, surnamed Do and Jeong, were promoted in a recent personnel shift. Do allegedly won promises from four district residents to vote for Um and persuade their neighbors to follow suit. In December, Jeong e-mailed Um asking for a promotion in return for helping him get reelected. Jeong was advanced on Jan. 4 and has been promoting Um to influential figures and other residents since, according to the election committee officials.

The committee has confiscated all the e-mail exchanges between Um, Do and Jeong.

“The public-service workers cannot engage in election campaigns and they violated the public election law” by promoting Um’s campaign, said a committee official who asked not to be named.

The committee also asked prosecutors to look into the relationship between Heo and mayoral hopeful Park.

After the news about the scandal broke last Friday, some Miryang government officials expressed concerns, but others said this was nothing new.

An official who spoke on condition of anonymity said whenever the election season approaches, residents divide along lines based on academic background and political interest.

“The scandal just revealed the long-maintained practice by public-service workers,” the official said. “Once public-service workers are discovered to have supported a losing candidate, they’re subject to disadvantages in any personnel shift.”

Another city government official pointed out that in every election season there are rumors about who supports whom.

“For public-service workers, the question about who will get elected is crucial,” the official said. “Some public-service workers line up for the candidate who is the likeliest to win the election - and even take an oath of loyalty to them.”

By Hwang Sun-yoon []

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