Brown won't resign
Dec 16: Embattled Auckland Mayor Len Brown says he offered a “full and unconditional apology” to councillors at a meeting discussing his two-year long affair.
This morning’s closed-door meeting was held to allow councillors to question the mayor over the affair with Bevan Chuang and his failure to declare nearly $40,000 of free accommodation, as detailed in this EY report.
“We had a full, frank and robust discussion and I have offered a full and unconditional apology to councillors,” Mr Brown says in a media statement.
“I understand the frustration and disappointment that councillors feel. I realise that I have a good deal of work to regain their trust and rebuild our working relationships in the interests of Auckland. This is my focus, starting today.”
Mr Brown has previously said that while he has caused his family “harm, shame and humiliation,” he won't resign over the affair and remains committed to the job.
The EY report found Mr Brown did not inappropriately use council resources during his affair with Ms Chuang.
But it found he repeatedly breached the council's code of conduct by not declaring hotels rooms, an NRL grand-final ticket in Sydney and an iPad, which was later donated to charity.
Mr Bown also came under fire for an unscheduled “side trip” to Guangzhou, China, that included a dinner in a hotel restaurant with an unnamed friend and a staff member who couldn’t remember the occasion.
Dec 14: Auckland Mayor Len Brown won't resign.
Yesterday, Council chief executive Doug McKay released an Ernst & Young report that found nearly $40,000 in undeclared free hotel rooms and upgrades broke the Council's code of conduct. There are no specific penalties for breaking the code.
Last night, Mayor Brown told media, "The overwhelming sentiment, no matter what they think of me, is 'for goodness sake get on with the job'."
He is committed to the job; he sees the report as the end of the matter.
Councillor Cameron Brewer told NBR this morning he had no comment on the report as he and other councillors "contiinue to consider our options."
READ ALSO: OPINION - Len Brown must resign
Brown a no-show as report reveals $39K of hotel nights, upgrades
Dec 13: This afternoon, Auckland Council chief executive Doug McKay released the Ernst & Young report that investigated whether the mayor used council resources during his extra-marital affair with Bevan Chuang.
While the report found no inappropriate use of ratepayer funds, Mr McKay says it did find undeclared gifts to Mayor Len Brown and questionable telephone calls for personal use which haven’t been reimbursed.
Elected officials are required by council policy to declare gifts for personal benefit of more than $300. During 2011 to 2012, Mr Brown accepted nine free hotel rooms totalling $6130 in addition to 64 upgrades valued at $32,888.
Mr McKay says declaring gifts are the responsibility of the elected member. However, there is no punishment for breaching the council’s conduct code.
Mr Brown was a no-show at the press conference but released a statement shortly after.
“I was not charged for nine of these hotel rooms, including one occasion in relation to Ms Chuang," he says in the statement.
Mr Brown has come under fire for using hotel rooms in the city when he has a driver and car available to him around the clock.
“My reason for staying in the central city is that I often work until late in the evening – attending meetings, functions or civic events – and I start work early the next morning, often for media interviews or breakfast events. A significant number of these rooms were also booked and used privately by me and my family,” he says in his statement.
Mr McKay says he expects EY’s bill to top $100,000 for the “exhaustive” investigation.
EY combed through a million emails and 13,000 phone calls and texts, Mr McKay says.
“I am confident we have covered everything,” he says.
The mayor held on to a draft of the delayed report for almost a week to seek legal advice and give feedback to EY. Mr McKay wouldn’t comment on changes from the draft to the final report, only to say there were disputes of facts.
“If I knew, I wouldn’t say. I’m not able to say,” Mr McKay says.
In all, Mr Brown used his council-issued phone to make nearly 1400 calls and texts to Ms Chuang between November 2010 and October 2013. It amounted to about 10% of his total usage for he period.
Total charges paid by council for the mayor’s mobile phone calls and texts were $4,538.50 for the period of the review, according to EY. However, Ms Chuang is an appointed member of the Ethnic People Advisory Panel so EY couldn’t determine the split between personal and business related phone activity.
She says the mayor’s calls and texts to her were all of a personal nature. He says two-thirds of the calls and texts he made to Ms Chuang were personal.
He has only made one reimbursement, for $260, for personal calls during the period investigated.
The review was announced in October and was expected to take four weeks. It took seven weeks. Mr McKay says he had full support from Mr Brown and his office during the “comprehensive” and “robust” investigation.
“My role is finished here as far as I’m concerned,” Mr McKay says.
It’s up to council and the public to have a dialogue about the report’s findings, he says.
The report found no preferential treatment was given to Ms Chuang during time covered by the investigation.