David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Lonely Len has no friends to speak of

Activist Lisa Prager loudly flayed Len Brown for his failings. Photo / File
Activist Lisa Prager loudly flayed Len Brown for his failings. Photo / File

Those who loved him best had least of all to say.

In fact, Mayor Len Brown was completely without friends as councillors gathered to debate his fate.

He wasn't there to see it - the mayor left the Auckland Council meeting yesterday to allow free discussion of his excesses.

Mr Brown did, though, get an early taste before leaving. Activist Lisa Prager bombastically flayed Mr Brown for his failings.

"Sexual trysts!" said Ms Prager.

Mr Brown's eye slid sideways towards the door, with its large EXIT sign.

"Bribery and corruption!" Ms Prager continued.

He peered down the back of the room. Grumpy protesters looked back. He quickly looked away, shifting in his seat, and looked back at Ms Prager.

"Len, your time is over," she said.

The mayor stroked down an imaginary stray hair on a thinning grey scalp and looked toward the door again. The sign still read EXIT.

It was 10.56am when the Mayor finally escaped, leaving councillors to decide his fate from the limited options they faced.

Sacking wasn't among the options but Dick Quax wanted a vote of "no confidence". Told it was bureaucratically impossible, an angry Cameron Brewer raged and roared, prompting Christine Fletcher to roll her eyes. "I'm going to buy you a tutu and ballet slippers for Christmas," she told him.

Not that she was backing Mayor Brown. "I think his brand is tarnished," she said. "The mayor has absolutely gone beyond the pale."

It's a case of "the Emperor has no clothes", said first-time councillor Denise Krum. "He needs to acknowledge what everyone else is saying."

Fellow first-timer Linda Cooper was concerned: "I see no contrition." She was echoed by Ross Clow, newly arrived to council from Titirangi. "Kiwis hate people having that sense of entitlement over everyone else."

Yesterday, there was no support for Mr Brown from any quarter.

Mike Lee, stalwart of Auckland's left, fretted that Auckland would be seen as "officially dysfunctional" if they declared no confidence in the mayor.

Those supporters who could have spoken for his qualities were silent and offered nothing.

Councillor Cathy Casey resisted frequent challenges from the public to speak up for Mr Brown. Also silent were Arthur Anae and Alf Filipaina.

And so council acted, in the limited way they were able to.

They agreed, unanimously, to record council's disapproval at his "inappropriate conduct and undeclared conflicts of interest" - not that the mayor has admitted a conflict yet.

They asked the mayor to contribute to the costs of the report - then set up a secret committee to "negotiate" the amount.

They recorded a requirement for a "stronger working relationship" between council and mayor - and were then divided as five refused to vote that Mayor Brown's apology and contrition be recognised.

Mayor Brown returned. "I accept absolutely unreservedly your recommendations and contained therein some direction to me," he said, then moved to the next order of business - the fate of a heritage villa in Mt Eden.

In the end, the power to do anything rested on the mayor's willingness to be punished.

He is the power in this Super City and survives at his own indulgence.

- NZ Herald

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