Fran O'Sullivan: Compromised mayor has to be held to account

165 comments
EY report reveals a politician who believes he is above the rules

If he had any skerrick of honour left, Len Brown would by now have tendered his resignation as mayor to the people of Auckland.

It is absolutely clear that Brown has obtained multiple private benefits by virtue of his position as Mayor of Auckland.

It's now time for Auditor-General Lyn Provost to open up a much wider inquiry to satisfy Aucklanders - and New Zealanders at large - just where Brown's abuse of his position stopped.

Brown is hopelessly compromised by the Ernst & Young (EY) report, finally released after lengthy "negotiations" between the mayor's office and Auckland Council chief executive Doug McKay on just what would be made public from the review into the possible use of council resources during the mayor's two-year affair with Bevan Chuang.

The potential use of Auckland Council resources during his liaison with Chuang might have sparked this inquiry.

But the real issue - as I have opined before - is how the Mayor of Auckland obtained special benefits for himself by virtue of his position, especially the $6130 of "freebie" hotel rooms disclosed in the EY report. Then there was the $32,888.50 worth of free hotel upgrades revealed by EY yesterday.

And more: the use of the mayoral car to squire his mistress about town; introductions of her to high-level Chinese visitors as his unpaid "translator"; the undisclosed gifts; the rearranging of his official overseas itinerary to squeeze in a private dinner in China with an unnamed female guest and a mayoral staffer.

As it turns out, she was a personal friend the mayor had requested to provide what proved to be unpaid translation services on the Guangzhou extension of his trip, and the staffer advised EY she had "no recollection of the dinner or attending diner" that was paid for by the council.

Then there's the personal use of his phone to text and call Chuang and "a range of people", which was not fully reimbursed to the council, in contravention of official guidelines. And so it goes on.

The EY report didn't cover the two-year sexual relationship between Bevan Chuang and Len Brown.
The EY report didn't cover the two-year sexual relationship between Bevan Chuang and Len Brown.

Frankly, accepting nine "freebies" at prime Auckland hotels - three of them at hotels belonging to SkyCity - doesn't cut it. It is not merely "embarrassing" but is improper behaviour, given the fact that the council has had to adjudicate on controversial issues around the SkyCity Convention Centre "pokies swap" deal where the mayor clearly needed to be seen to be above the play and not putting himself in a position where he could be subject to unconscious bias, or more.

With an average $680 room rate, the accommodation was clearly top-drawer.

That spells compromise in my book.

Brown has clearly flouted Auckland Council disclosure guidelines and general standards. This is symptomatic of a politician who believes he is above the rules. The fact that he was a "no show" at yesterday's press conference indicates Brown has no answers outside the carefully crafted but ridiculous spin that his bevy of well-paid mayoral office press people have been churning out in recent days to try to deflect attention from the damaging findings in the review.

If Auckland councillors are running true to form, they will duck for cover and yet again split on ideological grounds.

There is a lot that the EY report did not cover.

Pointedly - and "for the avoidance of doubt" - EY notes the review did not cover the sexual relationship between the mayor and Chuang, though it tried unsuccessfully to find the security guard who the pair said caught them in flagrante delicto.

Nor did the review assess the mayor and his behaviour against the council Code of Conduct, as the council has its own complaints process. And it did not review the use of hotels outside Auckland, or make a judgment on whether the mayor's time spent engaging in his relationship with Chuang during working hours was appropriate. Said EY: "The mayor is not an employee of council and his terms and conditions are governed by determinations made by the Remuneration Authority. The mayor's working week is not defined."

These may not be matters for EY's purview. But they certainly are issues his 20 councillors should be investigating.

This is no "right" versus "left" vulture hunt, as my colleague Brian Rudman said this week.

It is a matter of right and wrong.

The mayor has crossed the line and, just like his predecessor John Banks, he now needs to be held to account.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

Fran O'Sullivan

A columnist for the NZ Herald

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 18 Sep 2014 07:21:04 Processing Time: 847ms