Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Donor trust for mayor under fire

Failed council candidate says fund pool set up to help Len Brown was out of line

The trust, which contributed $499,000 to Brown's 2010 mayoral campaign, allows donors to keep their identities secret. Photo / HOS
The trust, which contributed $499,000 to Brown's 2010 mayoral campaign, allows donors to keep their identities secret. Photo / HOS

A private investigator has complained to Auckland Council and the Serious Fraud Office about a trust that was the biggest donor to disgraced Auckland mayor Len Brown's election campaign.

Grace Haden, who stood unsuccessfully for the council in October on the Transparency New Zealand ticket, asked council chief executive Doug McKay, electoral officer Bruce Thomas and the Serious Fraud Office to investigate the New Auckland Council Trust.

Returns filed earlier this month showed Brown's successful campaign was funded by $343,375 in donations, with the biggest donor the New Auckland Council Trust, which chipped in $273,375.

The trust, which contributed $499,000 to Brown's 2010 mayoral campaign, allows donors to keep their identities secret.

Haden said the trust, and others like it, was impossible to investigate because it was not incorporated. "It's a total sham." She wants the trust's legal existence established, and those who set it up and the trustees and beneficiaries identified publicly.

Brown's campaign spokesman, David Lewis, said it was "fascinating" Haden was complaining only about the New Auckland Council Trust, and not any others. "Trusts ... have been used by political parties for years. Len Brown's campaign abided by the law and it's a perfectly legal operation for raising money."

Auckland Council spokesman Glyn Walters confirmed Haden's complaints had been received.

Serious Fraud Office spokeswoman Andrea Linton said the office did not comment on specific complaints. "If appropriate, we will make information available to the public in due course."

Revelations about Brown's two-year affair with Bevan Chuang emerged just days after he was re-elected. That, and a failure to declare $39,000 in free hotel rooms, has seen Brown fight for his political future. Many believe he will not see out his term at the helm of the Super City.

- Herald on Sunday

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