Embattled mayor faces new date: in court

By Jimmy Ellingham

Auckland City Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Dean Purcell
Auckland City Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Dean Purcell

A private prosecution will be brought today against Auckland's embattled Mayor Len Brown, alleging he broke the law in not declaring hotel freebies from SkyCity.

Two charging documents sent to Auckland District Court by retired Wellington accountant Graham McCready state that between November 2010 and November last year, Mr Brown accepted for himself and his wife Shan Inglis three complimentary hotel rooms and five free room upgrades from SkyCity and SkyCity Grand Hotels.

The gifts, worth about $4600 by Mr McCready's calculations, led to "favourable consideration" given by Mr Brown towards SkyCity and parent company SkyCity Casinos, say the documents.

"He subsequently voted on matters relating to those entities without disclosing the fact of the gifts in his register of interests, or disqualifying himself," the documents say.

An EY (Ernst & Young) report published after revelations of Mr Brown's two-year affair with aspiring politician Bevan Chuang found the mayor failed to declare $39,000 in free hotel rooms and upgrades in total.

Mr Brown took three free hotel nights and five upgrades at SkyCity hotels during the time he was championing the pokies-for-convention-centre deal.

Mr McCready has laid the charges, which each carry a maximum jail term of seven years, under a section of the Crimes Act covering corruption involving public officials.

Retired accountant Graham McCready is known for his pursuit of public figures through the courts.
Retired accountant Graham McCready is known for his pursuit of public figures through the courts.

Mr McCready said he was an independent party. He did not live in Auckland, was not involved in the city's politics and had not met Mr Brown.

Although the dollar amount cited in his legal claim was small, important principles were at stake.

"We almost have a tradition of not charging public officials and high-profile people. I'm sure if other people did similar things they would be charged," he said.

A spokesman from Mr Brown's office said the mayor was aware of the matter but had no comment.

Mr Brown has previously said 98 per cent of the hotel rooms were organised by his wife, with assistance from his office. None of the upgrades or free rooms were requested.

He said he was "not totally focused" on the upgrades taking him over the $300 limit for gifts that must be disclosed under council rules.

SkyCity spokesman Gordon Jon Thompson declined to comment on Mr McCready's private prosecution, "except to say that we co-operated fully with the EY report and we've got nothing more to add".

Auckland University legal academic Bill Hodge said he had seen the charging documents and they were "not a foolish endeavour".

Mr McCready appeared to have set out the prosecution under the appropriate legislation, Associate Professor Hodge said.

Now it would likely head through an administrative stage, where Mr Brown would be notified by the court and given the chance to try to have it thrown out. If the prosecution remained, a judge could then decide if it was worthwhile proceeding through the courts.

Associate Professor Hodge said if that happened Mr McCready might hope a prosecuting agent, such as the Serious Fraud Office, would take over what could be a costly exercise. An SFO spokeswoman had no comment yesterday.

Mr McCready is known for his pursuit of public figures through the courts and has a proven track record in bringing successful prosecutions where others have failed.

In 2009 Mr McCready laid a prosecution against Labour MP Trevor Mallard, who was found guilty of fighting in a public place over a Beehive stoush with National MP Tau Henare.

More recently Mr McCready laid electoral fraud charges against ACT leader John Banks, a prosecution since taken over by the Solicitor-General. It will head to trial this year.

Mr McCready has also been in the dock himself, last year admitting a charge of blackmail.

- APNZ

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