Rome mayor resigns

Ignazio Marino leaves in wake of Rome credit card scandal.

The mayor of Rome Ignazio Marino has resigned following pressure from his Partito Democratico (PD) party in the wake of mounting political pressure on the mayor which culminated with a scandal surrounding his credit card expenses charged to the city.

Marino's departure, after less than two and a half years in office, has been characterised by lack of support from the prime minister Matteo Renzi almost from the outset and more recently from the Vatican which is preparing to open its special Jubilee year on 8 December. The final straw came when Marino's last remaining party supporter and influential ally Matteo Orfini, the PD president, allegedly distanced himself from the mayor over the credit card scandal.

Marino's expenses have dominated Rome news in recent days after several bills, totalling €915 according to the daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, were contradicted by some of the mayor's alleged guests, including the non-demoninational charity Communità S. Egidio and the Vietnamese embassy to Italy.

On 7 October Marino attempted to move on from the credit card debacle, which is currently being investigated by Rome prosecutors, by announcing that he would give back €20,000 charged to the capital, as well as waiving his entitlement to use the city's credit card.

Marino pointed out that he himself decided to post his expenses online, for reasons of transparency, after "opaque and black years" in city hall. He also underlined that the money was spent “in the interests of Rome”, and that part of the refunded expenses include the €3,540 spent on a dinner with Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov who subsequently agreed to donate €2 million to restore the city's monuments.

However Marino's offer to refund expenses has been interpreted as an admission that he has used his credit card inappropriately and as another indication of his lack of political acumen.

The probe into Marino's expenses came in the wake of a petition lodged by the anti-establishment MoVimento 5-Stelle (M5S) and the small right-wing party Fratelli d’Italia (FdI). The national business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore reported that, should prosecutors find any irregularities, the offence remains an offence regardless of whether the expenses have been refunded and the credit card returned.

Ahead of his resignation on 8 October the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica, once a strong supporter of Marino, reported that the mayor, in his former role as transplant surgeon, had been required to resign from both the University of Pittsburgh and the specialist ISMETT hospital in Parlermo over his “abnormal expenses and double invoicing.”

In recent months Marino has come under sustained attack by opposition politicians, the local media and comedians, in particular since his contentious trip to Philadelphia where he travelled to the World Meeting of Families on 26 September, which was part of the pontiff’s historic visit to America.

Pope Francis stated categorically on his return trip from the US that he had not invited Marino to the meeting, straining relations between the Vatican and the city of Rome at a crucial stage in the lead-up to the Holy Jubilee year.