The commissioner of Taipei City’s Department of Public Works, Shannon Lee (李咸亨), stepped down yesterday over an operational oversight at the Wanfang pumping station amid torrential rain on Tuesday, but refused to discuss his resignation with the press, sparking suspicion that his resignation was forced by Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌).
Lee, who was appointed commissioner in 2010, was the highest-ranked official in charge of overseeing operations at the pumping station, where an operational error caused serious flooding in Wenshan District (文山) on Tuesday.
Taipei City Government spokesman Chang Chi-chiang (張其強) said in an impromptu press conference that Lee tendered his resignation yesterday afternoon and took full responsibility for the error at the pumping station and the subsequent flooding, and the mayor respected his decision. However, Lee did not show up at the press conference and there were even seven civil servants keeping the media away from his office.
Lee later denied being forced to resign by Hau’s team and insisted that he wanted step down and take responsibility for the operational error at the pumping station. He also denied that he had said in the morning that he had done nothing wrong.
“I tendered my resignation because I need to take responsibility for the incident. No one forced me,” he said.
The city government had fired a technician surnamed Chang (張) and removed Hydraulic Engineering Office director Eric Huang (黃治峰) from his post on Tuesday after the drainage channel broke due to mismanagement and caused intense flooding at the intersection of Muzha and Wanfang roads. Lee’s resignation came after several Chinese-language newspapers named him as one of the five department heads who should be held responsible for what they called Taipei’s poor flood response.
Chang denied the connection between the news coverage and Lee’s resignation, and said Lee had offered his resignation orally when the accident happened, not after the news reports were published.
The city government will dole out more punishments today to city officials and staff who it deems responsible for the flooding and the late announcements on Tuesday, he said.
Taipei City’s Department of Education Commissioner Ding Ya-wen (丁亞雯), Department of Civil Affairs Commissioner Huang Lu Ching-ju (黃呂錦茹), Taipei City Fire Department Commissioner Hsiao Ying-wen (蕭英文) and Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥), director of the city’s Research, Development and Evaluation Commission, were named by newspapers as department heads that should take responsibility for the flooding, delayed announcements and the breakdown of the 1999 Citizen Hotline.
Hau said the city government would present a report today on its handling of the disaster, and it would punish more officials responsible for the incident.