Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano on Saturday announced that he would dismiss Perugia's prefect Antonio Reppucci following the local government official’s controversial comments about drug crime in the central Italian city, news agency Ansa reported.
“If a mother does not realize that her child is taking drugs she has failed, she should just commit suicide,” Reppucci had reportedly said.
Describing the comments as "serious and unacceptable" Alfano said "he [Reppucci] can’t stay there or elsewhere. I will take immediate action."
Responding to Alfano's decision to remove Reppucci from his post, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi tweeted: “The words of the prefect of Perugia are unacceptable, especially from a public servant. I’m grateful to minister Alfano for the intervention.”
Le frasi del Prefetto di Perugia sono inaccettabili, specie per un servitore dello Stato. Sono grato al Ministro Alfano per l'intervento— Matteo Renzi (@matteorenzi) June 21, 2014
Reppucci, meanwhile, insists that his comments were misinterpreted.
“It was a gigantic misunderstanding of the meaning I wanted to give to my words. No one wants anyone to commit suicide. I only wanted to shake things up,” the official told Ansa.
In another interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Reppucci dismissed his words as a mere Neapolitan turn of phrase.
"It was just a phrase said with the characteristic Neapolitan saying: to commit suicide in the sense that you have failed, that you have not succeeded at something. Not that you really have to kill yourself."
Moreover, he added, "I'm a practicing Catholic, as if I could ever really encourage someone to commit suicide. I meant that you can't describe Perugia as the drug capital. I just wanted to rouse a public reaction."
Reppucci isn't the only local government official to spark a scandal in recent months.
Earlier in June, Venice's mayor Giorgio Orsoni resigned amid a sweeping corruption investigation into a multi-billion-euro flood barrier project to save the island city from rising sea levels.