Reuters International

ROME (Reuters) - The mayor of a small town outside Naples had to shut down most municipal offices after police arrested 23 of his staff on Tuesday in the latest revelations of absenteeism in Italy's public sector.

Police arrested around half of all employees in the town hall offices of Boscotrecase following a weeks-long investigation which they said revealed 200 cases of absenteeism involving 30 people.

Staff were filmed clocking in and then leaving to go about their personal business or using multiple swipe cards to register absent colleagues, in scenes which have become familiar after numerous similar scandals.

A police video showed one man trying to tamper with a security camera and then putting a cardboard box over his head to hide his identity before swiping two cards.

"I'll probably have to shut down the town hall," Pietro Carotenuto, elected just a month ago as mayor of the town of 11,000 people, told Sky Italia.

He said four major town hall departments had been closed on Tuesday due to a lack of staff. Those arrested, accused of fraud against the state, included the head of the local traffic police and the head of the town's accounting department.

The workers, clearly undeterred by a recently announced government crackdown against absenteeism, have been suspended from work for between six and 12 months and risk eventual dismissal.

(Reporting by Gavin Jones; editing by Andrew Roche)

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