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Bologna mayor steps down amid scandal

Delbono accused of wooing secretary with public money

25 January, 18:04
Bologna mayor steps down amid scandal (ANSA) - Bologna, January 25 - Bologna Mayor Flavio Delbono said he would resign on Monday over allegations that he used public money to court his former secretary with weekend trips around Italy.

''I have made my decision with a clear conscience and out of a sense of responsibility to this city,'' he said during a highly anticipated press conference at Bologna's city hall.

During his address, Delbono said that he would decide ''how and when'' to hand in his resignation over the coming days, particularly in view of the city's pending budget.

Elected mayor last April as a candidate for the center-left Democratic Party (PD), Delbono is under investigation on charges of fraud and embezzlement related to claims made by one-time personal assistant Cinzia Cracchi.

Cracchi, 46, says that she was involved with Delbono during his tenure as vice president of the Emilia-Romagna region between 2000-2008, during which he supposedly wined and dined her on the government's tab.

After they separated, Cracchi was transferred to a less glamorous job with the public health service, an alleged source of resentment that led her to corroborate allegations of wrongdoing first raised by Delbono's center-right opponent during the 2009 mayoral elections. Delbono denies breaking the law and insisted until this weekend that he would not step down even if he were charged.

But the mayor faced mounting pressure from within the party to leave office before charges were brought against him, and on Monday decided to call it quits.

Following his resignation, Cracchi said ''he's made his decision and I think it's the right one for the city''.

Delbono's resignation less than a year after taking office signals an embarrassing setback for the PD in one of its historic strongholds with less than two months to go before regional elections in March. Despite his resignation, however, it remains uncertain when voters in Bologna will be headed back to the polls, according to opposition city councillor Paolo Foschini, who said it would take a government decree to call new elections.

Otherwise, city administration would pass into the hands of an interim commission appointed by the government that would remain in office for more than a year until the next round of local elections.

This is the second time in three months a major local administrator with the PD would be forced out of office by a scandal in his personal life.

Last October, Lazio Region President Piero Marrazzo stepped down after a video of him with a transsexual prostitute emerged from an investigation into a gang of police who were using it to blackmail him.

His resignation put the PD in the difficult position of having to find a new candidate to run in his place, before they finally decided on former Radical Party heavyweight, Senator Emma Bonino.

With Delbono's resignation, the PD could face a similar dilemma in Bologna with even less time to rally public support behind a replacement.

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