Len Brown censured, but no-confidence vote fails

But conservative councillors fail to push through stronger measure of a no-confidence vote.

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

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