Len Brown laments his 'annus horribilis'

Mayor Len Brown's salary is $251,010 a year. Photo / Doug Sherring
Mayor Len Brown's salary is $251,010 a year. Photo / Doug Sherring

Auckland mayor Len Brown has lamented his 'annus horribilis' in an interview this morning and reiterated that his failure to declare hotel freebies was due to 'a lack of clarity'.

Mr Brown is digging in his heels and rejecting a request from councillors to pay some of the $100,000-plus cost of a review into his extramarital affair.

Read today's Herald Editorial: 'It's time to go, Mayor Brown'

As part of a set of actions to be imposed on the mayor at tomorrow's council meeting, councillors want him to make an "appropriate contribution" to the council's costs.

These include $100,000-plus for a review by EY (Ernst & Young) that cleared him of using council resources or giving preferential treatment in connection with his affair and legal advice to the council from Crown Solicitor Simon Moore, QC.

On Friday, Mr Brown told the Herald he would pay for his legal advice from Philip Skelton, QC, but would not pay any costs of the review. Yesterday, a mayoral spokesman said Mr Brown's position had not changed since councillors indicated they wanted him to make a contribution.

Mr Brown's salary is $251,010 a year.

Councillor Dick Quax has written to chief executive Doug McKay asking him to bill Mr Brown for the full costs of the EY report, which he said resulted from the mayor being careless in his duty and misleading the council and people of Auckland.

Mike Lee - one of only a handful of councillors publicly backing Mr Brown to stay in the job - said to draw a line in the sand he had to do more than apologise and it was not unreasonable to seek some restitution.

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"It is not meant to be financially punitive, it's really almost symbolic to help bring closure."

Mr Lee said the actions planned by councillors, including a financial contribution from the mayor, a censure motion and clipping the wings of the mayoral office, were partly the result of pressure from the public, who felt embarrassed and disappointed.

"Aucklanders don't like sleaze. But there's an aura of sleaze starting to build around the mayor now and that's the problem," Mr Lee said.

- 'It's been an annus horribilis'-

In an interview on 95bFM this morning he repeated his previous assertion that his failure to declare $39,000 in free hotel rooms and upgrades was due to "a lack of clarity around the policy in terms of gift registry and declaration''.

"Secondly, I just didn't bring my mind to it clearly enough ... if you received an upgrade, or a complimentary [room], if it was over $300, then you should declare it.

"I've put my hand up to that and said `hey, you know we could have been much, much clearer and lucid around that and got better instruction and understanding.

"I was also thinking, 'hey, look this has nothing to do with the council, this has nothing to do with spending ratepayers' money'.

"I'm wiser in hindsight, well chastened and I suspect that it's just not me, there'd be many sitting around the council table who'll be thinking back on their declarations and wondering, 'hey, did I declare that upgrade in the aeroplane?'.''

Mr Brown said in reflection it had been "annus horribilis'' (a horrible year).

"Certainly the last few weeks have provided something of a reflection for me ... It's been really, really tough and not just in the public eye obviously, [but also] for us as a family, for me as a husband and a dad - it's been really difficult to confront that and that's where the damage has been most profound.''

He said he had been making a lot of apologies recently and was copping "a fair old whack around the ears''.

- Critic: Where's the Deputy Mayor's support for Len? -

Meanwhile, Mr Brown's most vocal council critic, Cameron Brewer, said it was telling that Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse was not publicly saying the mayor should stay.

Mr Brewer said Ms Hulse was cutting Mr Brown loose because supporting him now would damage her own aspirations to succeed him.

But last night Ms Hulse told the Herald Mr Brewer was wrong.

"Right now my priority is working with the mayor and councillors to get through this difficult time."

She said councillors spent more than five hours yesterday "finding a way forward".

- additional reporting: APNZ

- NZ Herald

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