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Len Brown censured, but no-confidence vote fails

Surprisingly, no one was removed by security at today’s heated Auckland Council meeting where councillors voted to censure mayor Len Brown.

The 2.5-hour debate was, at times, disorderly in both the public gallery and the councillors’ table.

The censure was broken into six parts, five of which were unamimous. The final paragraph, “f” as it was referred to, drew dissent and heated debate.

But paragraph “f” passed 15-5. The five councillors who opposed the measure — Dick Quax, Linda Cooper, Cameron Brewer, Sharon Stewart and Denise Krum — were seeking a stronger, no-confidence statement.

At the start of the meeting paragraph “f” said the council would “accept the mayor’s apology and expression of contrition for his actions". It further read, the council would be mindful of the importance of maintaining political stability in the governance of Auckland.

During the meeting, councillors voiced their disapproval with the paragraph. Some said it didn’t go far enough; others asked for the word “accept” to be changed to “noted”, which was eventually granted.

A censure means the council has chastised the mayor, Cr Mike Lee said during the debate, while a no-confidence vote means “we can’t work with him.”

Many people think the mayor has to resign if a council passes the no-confidence motion, he continued, and that’s not true.

“It’s step one” a heckler yelled from the public gallery.

If the council officially said it has no confidence in the mayor, it would send a message to Wellington and the rest of the country that Auckland is too dysfunctional, Mr Lee says.

Mr Brown does not have the credibility to represent Auckland in Wellington to ask for billions of dollars in transportation funding, Mr Brewer later said during the debate.

Mr Lee’s comments drew outrage from some members of the public gallery. At one point he asked the public for silence as past speakers had silence during their submissions.

“Yeah but they are respected,” one heckler yelled.

The mayor left the meeting while council grilled outgoing CEO Doug McKay on the EY report he commissioned which investigated whether the mayor misused council resources during his extramarital affair with Bevan Chuang.

Mr McKay was the first chief executive for the super city and this was his last meeting.

He says he doesn’t know the final cost of the EY report but the $100,000 projection came at an estimated four-week investigation. The investigation took seven weeks and combed through more than 1 million council emails.

Emails were searched by keywords, such as the name of a hotel, Mr McKay says. EY still has the emails and they can be accessed by the public using a public information request, he says.

“The last thing you want is transparency,” one heckler yelled from the audience.

Mr McKay says he is not asking for EY to purge the emails just yet.

Councillors asked Mr McKay if anything was removed from the report after Mr Brown reviewed it. Mr McKay says under principals of natural justice, Mr Brown was allowed to review it and some items were changed.

During the meeting Mr Quax questioned Mr Brown’s use of translators because his mistress Ms Chuang often accompanied the mayor to translate Chinese although she was never on a list of official translators.

Mr Quax questioned whether she ever translated commercially sensitive information and the risk the mayor took by using an unofficial translator.

“Because Len speaks in tongues,” yelled one heckler from the public gallery.

The council also voted, unanimously, that the mayor make reimbursements of remaining personal costs and a contribution to other costs incurred by the council.

It’s “imperative” the mayor pays the full costs of the EY report for the “crap” he has caused, Mr Quax says.

“The very poorest people are being asked to clean up after the mayor,” Mr Quax says.

The meeting was standing-room only and included community members making submissions on the Auckland Harbour Bridge SkyPath project and Living Wage Aotearoa on the wage debate. At times, the commentary from the public gallery was quite colourful.

“Bev wasn’t the only one to get screwed,” someone yelled.

 At one point, several members of the public chanted: “Stand down, Len Brown.”

After the censure vote, Mr Brown was asked back to the meeting to respond. He said he accepted the council’s resolution during a brief statement.

Before the council’s debate, former mayoral candidate Lisa Prager had the floor and said she asked the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to investigate Mr Brown for bribery and corruption.

The SFO originally rejected the case but now say it’s advancing the investigation, she says. The penalty carries maximum of seven years.

“Len, your time is over,” she says.

“We want you gone. We want you out of that seat,” yelled hecklers from the public gallery.

When contacted by NBR ONLINE, the SFO confirmed it has received a complaint regarding Mr Brown and it is advancing it "in accordance with our normal procedure". No formal investigation has been opened at this time.

In an interview yesterday with TVNZ, Mr Brown was vague when questioned on resignation. He was also chased down the street by a dozen protesters who heckled and called for his resignation.

This week a Herald editorial called for Mr Brown to step down as mayor, reversing the paper's original position.

sflores@nbr.co.nz

More by Stephanie Flores

Comments and questions
29

If Len Brown was truly Mayoral Quality he would have stepped down, the fact he stays on just shows how poor a judge of character we were before his re-election. Not now of course, his character is there as a shining example to all, what not to look for in an elected official, what not to look for as the head of an organization.

Is this the end, so he can keep on "toughing it out" in front of us, everywhere, endlessly? Can council revisit this as derision for the man grows?

No wonder Auckland doesn't function properly as a city when both its Mayor and most of its councillors are simply clueless (or is it wilfully clueless) about what constitutes appropriate behaviour and sound judgment. No wonder under this Mayor Auckland city’s debt has doubled and many rate payers have faced 10% pa rate hikes. Could you possibly expect anything less? Of course not.

Just a point of clarification. Cowboy hatted Lisa Prager told the meeting that she was speaking on behalf of all the people of Auckland. I live here, and she certainly wasn't speaking for me.

I'm less interested in this affair and more interested in what Councillors plan to do to make ours an even greater city. They never articulated any clear vision in their election material - they trotted out cliches and bromides - and today's meeting confirmed to me that presenting a clearly thought out direction for our city is the last thing on their minds.

That, to me, is the travesty here.

It is a question;
Has any commissioner reviewed the "upgrades" and freebies afforded to politicians, councillors and public service staff of Auckland and across NZ? I suspect there would be a lot in this barrel not least of whom may have been a former mayor or challenger for this position.
What role has the news media in this side of the story?
Tread carefully as NZ's have been very tolerant on these "upgrades" afforded to all ranking officials.

fancy words for nzers the reality is that this is corruption at the highest levels of local govt and john key has nothing to say? what abt the minister in charge of local govt what does he have to say?

Today's decision proves half the councillors are gutless.

Thank you Rodney Hide Local Government Minister for destroying the democratic open and honest local government cities that used to provide checks an balances on each other throughout the greater metro. Thank you for giving us this corrupt dog of an entity called "Auckland City". Thank you for ignoring the recommendations of the Local Government Commission. Thank you for setting up an unaccountable clueless and gutless back scratchers club in place of local government. No doubt various mates a parliamentarians will get to clip the consultancy ticket along the way to cleaning up this mess if they ever do.

In other words, no penalty at all for Len. Why did they bother?

The real issue is the debt. How can we stop Len borrowing 2 Million per day? We will pay for this over many years to come... Also, who is a credible replacement? Rob Fyfe?

Why would you suggest replacing one philandering loser with Fob Ryfe?

Duncan - agree with you -Prager in no way speaks for me.

I voted Brown and I will do so again.

WHY? - He is driving this city forward in a way that Mills, Fletcher and Banks etc never did - we are becoming the city we needed to be.

I voted for a city advoctae not the minister of my local church.

Yes it has been a tawdry affair but the egg is equally on the right wings faces - after all it is their honey trap.

Stay on Len (but do try to keep your pants on)

I voted Brown and I will do so again.

...staggering....

wazzman - you're about 2 month's too late with the conspiracy theories. So to make yourself seem somewhat credible, you should remove the tinfoil hat and mankini, take medications only as directed and always ensure you have adequate ventilation in enclosed spaces when using solvents.

Indeed. Your thoughts align with those of the silent majority.

Likewise.

Unlike previous mayors, Len has successfully reinvented public transport, and successfully initiated the right conversation about AK's future through the unitary plan. Whether we end up as a Hong Kong or an LA, that's the debate we need to have, and which no previous mayor has managed to launch.

As Brewer has proved, freebies are commonplace.

I'm not sure what Pager's aiming for. No likely replacement would be remotely as aligned with her outlook as Len is, unless she considers herself a viable alternative, which would illustrate just how detached she is.

She has dishonestly claimed to represent all sorts of people before. Ask Neil Finn.

Do you use public transport or do you drive to work?

Brewer's trip was declared:

http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2013/12/brewers-trip-declared-smear-backfires-brown/

Imagine what a great city Auckland would be if everyone showed as much attention to local body politics as they have in the last month-it's time to get over it and move on and fix NZs best city.

The right's moral indignation and campaign against Len Brown are as disingenuous as Brown's remorse, I don't for one second believe any councillor gives two hoots about "doing the right thing" its is merely a convenient vehicle to oust a political opponent and push their own agenda.

Correct.

We ll those of you that support Brown deserve all you get including the crushing rates bill that will result from his hair brain underground train system which will never be built because it is unaffordable.

Just read about Brewer's undeclared junket to the Gold Coast, there goes his credebility.

Totally agree. It is appalling that 11of the 20 councilors felt they did not have to file a return. They should all have to file one and for 2013.

Actually it was declared:

http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2013/12/brewers-trip-declared-smear-backfires-brown/

Len Brown's trip to Hong Kong wasn't though so I assume you'll be declaring Len Brown has no credibility?

Yeah - What's that glass house saying?

I wonder how many other Auckland gravy train councillors have had affairs and not been honest about it?

Does anyone know any that might be obvious?

I've heard our beloved Mayor might've had several mistresses, does that count?

Yes - I've just read Radio New Zealand's story about Cameron Brewer taking a Mediaworks free four-night trip to the Gold Coast with radio advertisers in mid-2011. The company is not saying how much the trip would have cost, but Mr Brewer has not declared receiving any gifts worth more than $300 for that year. He has not returned calls this morning from Radio New Zealand News.

So much for accountability and transparency from one of Brown's most strident critics, who yesterday was demanding that Brown assure councillors that he had nothing more to declare...But of course there is no hypocrisy or politics involved.....

Then we have all the sleazy suggestions that there is more to be revealed about Brown's sex life. We had promises a while ago from Whale/Slater re all of this but guess what ... nothing has been revealed. Politics....???

Now we also have councillors threaten Brown with legal action if they don't get their way in the negotiations with him re the EY report costs. Politics.....?

Meanwhile, what is happening to Auckland?

Brewer's trip was declared:

http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2013/12/brewers-trip-declared-smear-backfires-brown/