OPINION: Brown must resign

Having read the EY report, I believe Len Brown must resign as Mayor of Auckland.

OPINION

Having now read the EY report commissioned by the Auckland Council Chief Executive, I believe Len Brown must resign as Mayor of Auckland. I only formed this view after reading the report, and did not believe what had previously been disclosed was substantial enough to warrant resignation.

But the report makes Clear that Len Brown publicly lied to the media and the public, and also that there were ratepayer resources used for his affair. Taking the findings one at a time:

The mayor used his council provided phone to make 1,375 calls and texts to Ms Chuang between 19 November 2012 and 21 October 2013, out of a total population of 13,797 calls and texts. Ms Chuang advises the mayor’s calls and texts to her were all of a personal nature. The mayor has advised two-thirds of the calls and texts he made to Ms Chuang were of a personal nature.

He even lied to EY. How could anyone think that a third of his calls and texts were work related, when she isn’t a Councillor or even a board member.

Personal use of mobile phones is permitted by the Elected Members Technology Policy and Guidelines. Costs relating to personal calls and texts are required to be reimbursed by the elected member in accordance with the policy. The mayor made one reimbursement of $263 for personal phone use on 25 October 2012 for the 2011/2012 period. No subsequent reimbursements have been made by the mayor.

10% of his total calls and texts as Mayor were to Chuang, and he only did one reimbursement. The ratepayers paid for all the other calls and texts. He should have done monthly reimbursements. He also is a fool for doing so many calls from his work phone – the staff who pay the bills would have noticed the same number cropping up. Brown should immediately repay the cost of all the calls and texts – but it is too late anyway. Only paying it back after the auditor finds it is not good enough for a Mayor – and he has form here.

Ms Chuang attended several functions as the mayor’s translator, mayor’s guest or as an Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel (“EPAP”) member where she provided translation services. We did not find any evidence that she was paid for providing these services by council. Ms Chuang has never been, and is currently not, included on the list of official translators maintained by council.

He only took her along as he was having an affair with her. He used his position as Mayor to further the affair. She was not an authorised translator.

The mayor, via one of his Diary Managers, provided a brief written email reference for Ms Chuang on 5 July 2011 in relation to her application for a role at Auckland Art Gallery. Earlier that day, the mayor made three phone calls to the Auckland Art Gallery Head of Development but was unsuccessful in speaking with her. The mayor has advised he provides references for people on a regular basis. Upon request, the mayor provided a number of character references and nomination support letters to us (for other people). However, these were not references for specific employment roles.

The fact he could not provide one example of another specific reference for a specific job implies he never has done such a reference before.  he even tried to call three times on her behalf. And worse it was for a job at a Council CCO. A clear example of using his power as Mayor to further the affair, or commence it.

It is a pity the EY review does not ask the Head of Development at the Auckland Art Gallery how much weight the reference from the Mayor played.

During the period of the mayor’s relationship with Ms Chuang, the mayoral vehicle and driver were used to transport Ms Chuang to her home after a number of official functions

Did anyone not sleeping with the Mayor get lifts home in the Mayoral limo? Another example of use of resources to further the affair.

The mayor has received nine complimentary (free) hotel rooms or suites which have not been registered as gifts or disclosed in his completed annual Declaration of Interests. The value of the complimentary rooms/suites based on rates provided by the hotels is $6,130.

He has broken the Council’s disclosure policy. Each room on average was worth almost $700. Even worse three of the rooms were at Sky City, and he of course was an advocate of the convention centre deal with them. That would get you before the Privileges Committee if he was an MP.

Stuff reports:

“I was not charged for nine of these hotel rooms, including one occasion in relation to Ms Chuang.

This confirms Len Brown lied to the media and the public. On 19 October the Herald reported:

Mr Brown also denied claims by Ms Chuang that some hotels rooms he booked for the pair were offered free of charge.

In a written statement to the Weekend Herald, the mayor’s head of communications, Dan Lambert, said: “He was not offered, or has accepted, free hotel stays in connection to the relationship and paid the standard rate out of his own pocket.

That is a direct lie, contradicted by the evidence.  He has only told the truth now because of the audit.

The mayor has received hotel upgrades (to better quality rooms or suites) which have not been registered as gifts or disclosed in his completed annual Declaration of Interests. A total of 64 such upgrades has been identified. The value of the upgrades based on rates
provided by the hotels is $32,888.50.

By itself, this would not necessarily be an issue. You may be unaware of the upgrade, or its cost. And upgrades get given to many people. Free rooms do not. But the combination of the free rooms combines with the upgrades to paint a picture of Brown receiving massive personal benefits from the hotels.

There is also the issue of why the Mayor has had to stay in an Auckland hotel on at least 64 occasions.  The reason offered of late nights and early starts is ridiculous. His home is in Totara Park, which is just 20 minutes from the CBD.

We did not identify any improper preferential treatment by the mayor in relation to Ms Chuang’s appointment to the EPAP, New Lynn Night market, Howick Local Board contracts and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (“ATEED”) services.

There may not have been preferential treatment, but it shows how involved Chuang was with the Council. She was not a purely private citizen. She was on a panel personally appointed by the Mayor, and had no less than three contracts with the Council. That is what you call a power imbalance.

Another possible lie:

On that night, the mayor advises us he had dinner in the hotel restaurant with the Mayoral Office staff member who accompanied him on the trip and a personal friend the mayor advises us he knows well. This person had been requested by the mayor to provide translation services on the Guangzhou extension (13 and 14 November 2011). No evidence of payment has been found for these translation services. The Mayoral Office staff member has advised us she has no recollection of the dinner or attending the dinner.

I believe the mayoral staff member. Len invented her presence at the dinner to justify charging it to the Council. I wonder how often this “personal friend” provided translation services for the Mayor, and was their selection on the same basis as his selection of Bevan Chuang?

No one can force Len to resign, but he has lied to the public and mis-used Council resources. He should resign. He can stand in the by-election if he thinks Auckland voters are okay with what he has done.

Also the Auckland Council needs to take action and at a minimum censure the Mayor for his use of Council resources and his failure to disclose gifts. They can’t do more than censure him, but they can at least do that.

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