Aside from the presidential candidates, Hsinchu Mayor Ann Kao (高虹安) has been the name on everyone’s lips.
Kao, a member of the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), has been engulfed in a slew of controversies, including allegations of living in a NT$50 million-plus (US$1.57 million) apartment and traveling in luxury vehicles, courtesy of property developers, raising questions about potential conflicts of interests.
While Kao was in Japan, Hsinchu Deputy Mayor Tsai Li-ching (蔡麗清) was suddenly “asked to resign,” which raised eyebrows as deputy mayors handle municipal affairs when mayors are abroad.
Former Hsinchu Cultural Affairs Bureau director Chien Kang-ming (錢康明) has also accused Kao’s “good friend” — apparently referring to her boyfriend Lee Chung-ting (李忠庭) — of attempting to meddle in city affairs.
It is hard to imagine it was only last November when Kao, a young candidate “personally trained by” independent presidential candidate and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) and endorsed by TPP Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), rose to stardom. With her crisp image and experience in technology, Kao was voted into office with great expectations.
However, her character, ethical conduct and leadership seem to have aged like milk, with Hsinchu residents now questioning their choice.
During the mayoral campaign, Kao shot to fame after mocking former Hsinchu mayor Lin Chih-chien’s (林智堅) “weak academic chops.” She was then accused of abusing the paid leave system while working at the Institute for Information Industry and plagiarizing partial content of institute-funded studies that she coauthored in her doctoral dissertation. These allegations should have shown her to be an opportunist who would exploit the resources she has access to.
Kao was later indicted on corruption charges after accusations of making fraudulent payroll deductions and misusing public funds as a legislator. Whistle-blowers have accused Kao of forcing her office assistants to transfer part of their salaries and overtime wages to a common fund, which was later used for her personal benefit. That no assistant spoke up for her has shown her to be an unempathetic boss, and her inclination to mix public and private affairs should render her unfit for public office.
People might have thought Kao had learned from her controversies after assuming office, but she let her “close friend” give instructions on her behalf, maybe even coercing Chien to resign.
Despite these allegations, Kao has only explained her misconduct with new lies and excuses.
Kao’s political travails could have dealt another serious blow to Ko and Gou’s support ratings. When asked about the allegations, Ko evaded the question, claiming no knowledge of details.
If Hsinchu residents have cast their ballots for Kao or the TPP out of hope for a third force of “rationality” — a phrase Ko often associates with the TPP — then Kao might have proved to be a big disappointment, as she is more interested in “politicking” than being “rational.” A good leader should be thinking of methods to allocate resources, not seeking their own interests.
As a responsible politician and a highly educated elite, it is time that Kao put her education and the TPP’s promise into practice by coming clean and offering clear answers to questions. The petition to recall then-Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) also stemmed from residents’ grave disappointment, and for now, Kao risks triggering that same sentiment.
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