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The lion, the witch and Len Brown's wardrobe

They make an unlikely crime-fighting duo.

They don’t have capes. Or day jobs. Or desire for anonymity.

They certainly don’t have any money.

But an emerging team, vowing to fight alleged political corruption, is continuing to take shape following the Auckland mayor’s most recent scandal.

Auckland activist and campaigner Penny Bright has joined forces with retired Wellington accountant Graham McCready.

Ms Bright is known for her unsuccessful mayoral bids and, some would say, colourful disruptions of government meetings. Mr McCready is perhaps best known for his private prosecution against Act Party leader John Banks, which the Crown is taking to trial in May.

The two first met in Wellington in 2012 when Mr Banks was their politician de jour.

Now, the two have turned their attention to Auckland mayor Len Brown and the $250,000 EY report.

On January 27 Mr McCready lodged a request for the Attorney-General’s consent to prosecute Mr Brown for an alleged offence of corruption under the Crimes Act 1961.

Crown Law has acknowledged receipt of the complaint and plans to make a decision before March.

On February 4, Ms Bright filed a complaint of money laundering against the mayor. That complaint relates to free hotel rooms and upgrades unveiled by the EY report, which looked into the mayor’s use of council resources during his two-year extramarital affair with staffer Bevan Chuang.

If the police do not pursue Ms Bright’s allegations, Mr McCready says he is prepared to launch a private prosecution.

“We’re now becoming quite a formidable team up here in Auckland,” he told NBR ONLINE. “I try to stand back and wait for the court proceedings. I can be the advocate and prosecutor. They can be the complainants.”

Ms Bright is used to making noise. At last month’s council meeting she was denied speaking rights but that didn’t stop her from taking centre stage and disrupting the meeting.

Her latest tirade targets former council CEO Doug McKay, who commissioned the EY report. She says he didn’t follow proper procedure and she has since lodged a complaint with the police under the Crimes Act.

Although Auckland Council denied her speaking rights, she stood up and began to talk over the mayor and other councillors.

“We don’t have one set of rules for Penny Bright and one for everyone else,” Mr Brown told her at the meeting.

He adjourned the meeting for “five minutes” which ended up being more like 20. Ms Bright continued to speak to the room while councillors drank tea and ate biscuits just metres away.

Mr McCready, who wasn’t at the meeting, says asking Ms Bright to be quiet is a mistake.

“If you want Penny to stop talking, then you have to talk to her,” Mr McCready says. “Tell her to shut up and she’ll go on for the next two hours but you gotta hand it to her.”

It’s not the first time Ms Bright has been refused speaking rights or refused to leave meetings when public bodies tried to discuss confidential matters. She regularly cites the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act in her demands to be present.

“I’ve been arrested 22 times so I have expertise in this area,” she told NBR ONLINE.

Another thing Ms Bright and Mr McCready have in common is they have no money.

When Kim Dotcom has a message for the public — whether it’s declaring his right to dance, creating a political party or venting his disdain for internet buffering — he can rent a billboard or the side of an Auckland city bus and stick his face on it.

When Ms Bright has a message for the public, she runs for office. She rejects the notion that she is a “serially unsuccessful candidate”.

“I use the electoral process to get publicity about the issues. It’s an effective way to get your message out to the public,” she says.

Mr McCready, on the other hand, turns to the court system.

He’s twice bankrupted.

She has refused to pay rates since 2008.

Mr McCready regularly travels by bus and, when he heads to Auckland, you won’t find him with free room upgrades at SkyCity, the Langham, the Hilton, the Stamford Plaza or any other room next door to New Zealand’s elite.

The last time he was in Auckland to file papers at the High Court, he slept on Ms Bright’s couch.

Ms Bright no longer works as a welding tutor at Manukau Institute of Technology. Instead, she says she paid off her 24-year mortgage in nine years and rents rooms to flatmates for income.

“I’m a self-funded public watchdog. No one can remove my funding because I don’t get any,” she says.

She has refused to pay rates since 2008, when she questioned where her money was going. Under the Public Records Act, she says she is entitled to complete records, particularly payments made from public bodies to private contractors.

She hasn’t received what she says is a solid answer. Over the years, she has shifted her interests from the rights of ratepayers to what she calls “the statutory duties of public officials”.

“If you don’t know your rights, then you haven’t got any,” Ms Bright says.

Speaking of public officials, Mr McCready can count at least five complaints launched with government offices with links to Mr Brown.

“It ain’t going to go away shortly,” he says. “I would imagine, looking at the whole process, we’ll probably have Len Brown in court, one way or the other, within six months. And this time it will stick.”

Mr Brown has not publicly responded to the allegations.

sflores@nbr.co.nz

More by Stephanie Flores

Comments and questions
15

I love this article.
I consider it a most balanced take on two of the countries more interesting personalities.
Democracy and Auckland should never share the same sentence with too many local body politicians utilised by deceitful bureaucrats ignoring totally the concept of public service. This has gone on for more years than I care to remember.
Good to see NBR leading a balanced reporting of matters as usual so history can at least record there have been some citizens trying to hold those in power to account.

What should bother us all most is that it takes a private citizen to uncover corruption. What has our Government being doing during all of this. At the first hint of administrative corruption the Fraud Office should be all over it. Very disappointing.

Is it just me, or do I detect a hint of romance in the air???

It's just you David B :)

Kind regards,

Penny Bright

I too love this article. Just because some people are"different" doesn't mean their is wrong. More of us should have the guts to do things like these two!

Would be good if they focussed on real issues like the massive rates hikes and associated transfer of wealth ( buying votes?) from central suburb ratepayers to West and South Auckland.
Is there an OCDs Anonymous for people like that??

Lot of cynics but these 2 take on the elephant in the room - no they are not perfect but they admit their errors

They are achieving what our mega regulators on big $ wont, cant or aren't allowed to - conspiracy theory is Crown Law took over Banks case to ensure its fumbled

Congratulations to these two!
They have the guts to point out corruption in government,both national and local.....of which there is alarmingly far too much.
They are filling a gap sadly left vacant by the authorities whose job it is to do this.

The problem for Auckland is that its chief negotiator, Mayor Brown, is now totally compromised by his disgraceful actions - especially when it comes to promoting the Supercitys growth agenda with Central Government.

One can only imagine what is running through the Wellington bureaucrats minds when Len arrives seeking to work out a solution. Nobody is surprised when he is sent away with his tail firmly between his legs.

Good luck with your campaign Penny - you sure get my vote next time!

I've had the misfortune to have dealt with both over the years. They are vexatious, appear to have a poor grasp on reality, and both use the law for their own benefit yet decline to recognise it when they have committed crime (which they have). A search will bring up the details. 'Fruit cakes meets nut bar' should be the headline.

errr...... "both use the law for their own benefit " ?????

What I have done is to refuse to back down when my rights have been violated, and taken matters to the point of arrest.

Although I have never been to University or had a day's formal legal training, I'm not stupid and can read, and have had some success as a 'lay litigant'.

I take full personal responsibility for my actions.

If more than one Judge has agreed with my understanding of the law and made decisions in my favour, how is that 'using the law for my own benefit'?

What 'benefit' have I received?

Kind regards,

Penny Bright
(Who at least puts her name to her posts :)

www.pennybright4mayor.org.nz

It is because these two have no money that they are prepared to fight the endemic corruption in circumstances where the government funds the cover-up - $600,000 alone last year on Transparency International New Zealand - - the Auditor General being this sham organisation's sole 'platinum partner'.
Those with money look around and soon realise they will eventually be bankrupted too if they tell the truth about how bad the corruption is.

Good for Penny Bright - a very brave woman - and yes, kudos to the NBR and Stephanie Flores.

For too long Bright has been covertly sneered at by mainstream media, and to see her led away in handcuffs has been sad - as well as being a totally unnecessary police action.

In fact, the police should have been ashamed of themselves, and their actions have seemed more appropriate of the old USSR. This is not a violent woman - and it is the same of the local body representatives too, that they so conveniently managed not to listen to her.

it will be very good value to see her and McCready take on the increasing corruption of the tribal settlements and to require Treaty negotiations Minister Finlayson to start showing some proper accountability to the public

How many people know that the Auditor-General Lyn Provost is a SHAREHOLDER in Sky City?
______________________________________________________

http://www.oag.govt.nz/2013/skycity

Deputy Auditor-General’s overview

Inquiry into the Government’s decision to negotiate with SkyCity Entertainment Group Limited for an international convention centre.

..................

1: The Auditor-General has a small shareholding in SkyCity so she has not been involved in this inquiry.

_____________________________________________________

New Zealand Auditor-General Lyn Provost fails to disclose this rather significant 'conflict of interest' when I ask her to conduct an urgent inquiry into the failure of OFCANZ to do 'due diligence' on the increased risk of money-laundering arising from the NZ International Convention Centre Bill:
______________________________________________________

On 21 November 2013

I have received your email and will consider your request.
Lyn Provost
___________________________________________________

21 November 2013

I want an URGENT investigation by the OAG into the failure of OFCANZ to do ‘due diligence’ on the increased risk of money-laundering arising from the NZ International Convention Centre Bill (not sure if it yet has Royal Assent).

This Treasury reply confirms that OFCANZ come under Police – which are a ‘Public Entity’.

18 Inquiries by Auditor-General

(1)The Auditor-General may inquire, either on request or on the Auditor-General’s own initiative, into any matter concerning a public entity’s use of its resources.

....................
______________________________________________________

On 31 January 2014, I received this reply from New Zealand
Auditor-General Lyn Provost, to my question 'are you still a shareholder in Sky City':
______________________________________________________

Penny

There is no change in position from June 2012.

Lyn Provost

________________________________________
Lyn Provost, Controller and Auditor-General
Office of the Auditor-General Te Mana Arotake
Level 2, 100 Molesworth Street, Thorndon, Wellington 6011
PO Box 3928, Wellington 6140
______________________________________________________

Again - file under - 'You Couldn't Make This Sh*t Up'!

Please note that there will be a LOT more to come on this matter....

Penny Bright

(More background information can be found on www.pennybright4mayor.org.nz

Why is Penny Bright privileged to pay no rates when others are fined for so doing ?
Is this just a free ride on rates paid by others ?