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Herald on Sunday editorial: Brown has questions to answer

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Len Brown with his wife Shan Inglis. Photo / Doug Sherring
Len Brown with his wife Shan Inglis. Photo / Doug Sherring

What agony this week must have been for the Mayor of Auckland, his wife and family. Their public ordeal will be less important to them than the one they are facing in private but, among the many families damaged by an extra-marital affair, very few have to endure their crisis with the sordid details in the daily news.

Len Brown of course should have considered this possibility before he let down his wife and their daughters. But he would have expected it to remain no business of anybody else. New Zealanders do not normally pry into the personal relationships of people in public office. Even political opponents in this country generally observe a code of personal privacy.

That code has been cast aside this week by a small coterie of the mayor's opponents who worked for his nearest rival, John Palino. Having lost the election fairly, squarely and predictably last Saturday, they were not content with credit for a better than expected vote, they set about on Sunday to destroy the winner.

They used - in the worst sense of the word - the woman involved in the affair. Bevan Chuang was soon to regret the affidavit she signed last Sunday. She is by no means blameless, any more than the mayor, but she did not deserve the cruel manipulation she suffered from the Palino people.

Palino himself denies any knowledge of the dirty work done in his cause, as does his campaign manager John Slater, a former National Party president and a veteran organiser of right-wing tickets in Auckland local politics. It is hard to believe they were unaware of a scheme that could change the game. Slater's son Cameron was planning to post Chuang's bombshell on his blog site.

Perhaps the worst specimen in this bunch is a newcomer to New Zealand and its politics, Luigi Wewege. His email exchanges with Chuang suggest he wormed his way into her affections only to get evidence of her affair with the mayor.

When eventually she agreed to sign the affidavit written for her she says she was at a low ebb after the election, having missed out on the local board. Her name was not put on the website but, given everything else it published about her, that anonymity lasted about three hours.

She and Brown have been targets of tactics foreign to this country's politics but that is of little help to Brown now. The affair in itself is a private matter but some of the questions it raises are of legitimate public interest. Most importantly, has Chuang received any benefit from the council with the help of the mayor?

We know he put in a word for her for a job in the Art Gallery. Was her previous experience suited to the job? Was she the best applicant? On what basis did the mayor recommend her?

Did she receive any other benefits in the form of contracts, as the co-ordinator of the New Lynn night markets or in any other role? Has she been associated with any resource or planning consents? The council needs to thoroughly check these records for the two years of the affair.

The mayor has put himself in circumstances where any benefit he has helped her gain is also a personal benefit to him and he ought to resign. But if there have been no gains of that nature, and the whole sad affair has cost the ratepayers no additional expense, Aucklanders ought to allow him to get on with the projects he has started.

The voters have re-elected him for good reasons that remain good. He has caused a private tragedy, it is not yet a public outrage.

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