Bevy of heavies

20/01/2014

He’s referring to the security guards who were present when Auckland mayor Len Brown opened a new transport station on Saturday.

. . . Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer says ratepayers need to be assured they are not paying for guards to protect the mayor from peaceful demonstrators protesting against his personal actions. He says ratepayers should not be paying for guards to protect the mayor while he battles personal issues.

“The fact is that wherever this man goes there’s always going to be a few hecklers, a few peaceful demonstrators and that’s no justification for bringing in the heavies and putting them on the public payroll.”

Mr Brewer says the guards would be justified if a genuine risk or threat had been directed at Mr Brown.

A spokesperson for the Mayor’s office has confirmed the guards at Saturday’s event were paid for by Auckland Transport – a division of the council. . .

The affair which is the cause of this might be private but the fallout is public and it’s costing the public.


Painting a black Brown white

14/01/2014

Auckland mayor Len Brown has been keeping a very low profile for weeks:

Mr Brown did not return calls yesterday and his team of spin doctors were giving little away about the movements of their boss, who has been on leave since December 21 – the day after councillors expressed their “profound disappointment and disapproval” of the mayor’s inappropriate behaviour and undeclared conflicts of interest.

Yesterday, Mr Brown’s chief press secretary, Glyn Jones, said the mayor was “still officially on leave but spending some time in the office while enjoying quality time with his family before returning to mayoral duties within the next couple of weeks”.

He’s been on  leave but his team of spin doctors – possibly all six of them – has been at work trying to work out how to paint the black actions of Brown white:

The mayoral office is working on ways to rebuild Len Brown’s shattered reputation after his sex scandal. The strategy involves setting out an action plan and contacting communities.

One option is a state of the nation-type speech. Another is resuming Mr Brown’s “mayor in the chair” chats, but that carries the risk of angry citizens lambasting him in public. . .

They and he can do and say what they like but they can’t undo what he did, make people feel comfortable with it nor consider him an appropriate person for bread and butter civic duties where he might be seen as a role model in the community.

Councillor Sharon Stewart has said people in her community – schools, sports clubs and churches – were uncomfortable about having Mr Brown at events. . .

Mayors usually get invited to the opening a a cake tin but there’s a lot of groups who don’t want his fingers on their tins any more, either because of the affair or the associated behaviour.

. . . Meanwhile, the right-wing local body ticket Affordable Auckland is organising a “Stand Down Len Brown” march up Queen St at noon on February 22.

Leader Stephen Berry and spokesman Will Ryan said the march was not so much about Mr Brown’s private life as his undeclared activities and poor financial management.

Whether or not many people turn up, this, like Graham McReady’s planned litigation, will keep the mayors misbehaviour in the news, colouring people’s minds and making it much harder for the spin doctors to white-out the black marks Brown’s made.


McCready plans to file charges against Brown

13/01/2014

If Len Brown thought the furore over his affair and associated actions was going to blow over, he’s going to be very disappointed.

Wellington accountant Graham McCready has shown 3 News the criminal charges he plans to file against Len Brown next week, and one legal expert believes Mr Brown may have cause for concern.

Mr McCready today emailed out the two charging documents he intends to file in the Auckland District Court on Wednesday, alleging corruption by the mayor.

“These private prosecutions are an important check on the abuse of power by members of the executive branch of government who refuse to prosecute people,” says Mr McCready. . .

Legal academic Bill Hodge says Mr McCready has got something that deserves to be answered.

“He’s got a reasonable [case],” says Mr Hodge. “[It] may have legs.” . . .

Whether it’s a reasonable case with legs is up to the court.

But even it isn’t it will keep the issue alive and continue the focus on Brown for all the wrong reasons.


11 -10 against Brown on living wage

31/12/2013

The people of Auckland should be very grateful to Councillor Cameron Brewer for moving what is a contender for the motion of the year:

“That the Governing Body agrees that Auckland Council first and foremost prepare a remuneration policy in the 2014/15 financial year, and as part of that policy work fully investigate the costs and wider implications on the organisation, business community and region of the Living Wage policy and have the CE back to the Governing Body at a later date.”

The motion was seconded by Dick Quax and passed by 11 votes to 10.

It is ridiculous to effectively raise the minimum wage to the level supposedly needed for a family of four to have a reasonable life.

Those families would be little if any better off because any gains in their wages would be offset by reductions in Working for Families payments.

The ones who would gain would be single, mostly young, workers, many of whom would be part-timers.

Aucklanders should be grateful that a majority, albeit a slim one, of the council have the good sense to require a thorough investigation of the costs and implications before committing a large sum of money to implementing the policy.

This was a big defeat for mayor Len Brown who campaigned on introducing a living wage.

But it’s a win for the city and its people.


Is he respected as a person of good sense, character and integrity?

27/12/2013

Questions are being raised over Len Brown continuing to be a JP.

But Alan Hart from the registrar for the Royal Association of JPs says it’s not that simple.

. . . “Whilst individually we find difficulty in how they reconcile that behaviour with being a JP, it’s not wrong,” he says. “It’s not legally wrong, it’s not morally wrong, it’s just people behaving as people do.” . . .

Len Brown’s actions may not have been legally wrong but I beg to differ with Mr Hart over whether they’re morally wrong and while it might be what some people do, that doesn’t make it acceptable.

That ought to matter when a JP:

. . .  should be of good standing in the community (which is not to be identified with material prosperity), and should be respected as persons of good sense, character and integrity.

The problem is that Brown is a JP because he is mayor.

. . . Mr Hart said that JPs appointed as a result of their roles were not covered by the federation’s rules, including its code of conduct.

He can’t be sacked as mayor and as long as he’s a mayor he’s a JP even though he’s clearly demonstrated his standards aren’t those not just expected but required of other people holding the office.


This can’t be your best

20/12/2013

Dear Auckland,

You’re our biggest city.

You’ve got more than a million people to choose from and you got a mayor like this?

This can’t be your best.

He’s determined to stay which means you’ve got a couple of years in which to come up with someone better.

That shouldn’t be hard.

But you owe it to yourselves, and the rest of the country, to make sure it’s not just someone who’s better than what you’ve got, but someone who’s a good mayor and a good person.


Censured but not responsible

19/12/2013

Auckland mayor Len Brown has been censured by his council.

The Auckland Council has agreed 15-5 to censure mayor Len Brown.

Those opposed were councillors Brewer, Cooper, Krum, Quax and Stewart. 

Mr Brown has been asked back into the meeting to respond.

He says he accepts the resolution.

The council wants him to repay the costs incurred.

The council had been debating the following motion: a “request that the mayor make full reimbursement of all remaining personal costs and also make an appropriate contribution to other costs incurred by the council.”

Councillor Cameron Brewer asked for legal costs to be added. . .

The Taxpayers’ Union responded:

If Len Brown won’t pay back the money ratepayers have been forced to fork out, councillors should explore legal channels to recover the money,” saysTaxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams.  . .

“Though there is no legal punishment for Brown’s breaches of the Council’s code of conduct, instead of being upfront, the Council needed an independent review of the Mayor’s behaviour to get to the truth. The Council should take all steps to recover the costs to ratepayers.”

“If Mr Brown wants to be responsible for all of Auckland, the least he can do is be responsible for his own behaviour.”

It’s so much easier being responsible for a city spending other people’s money than one’s own behaviour which requires spending one’s own money.


Shameless

19/12/2013

Toronto mayor Rob Ford admits to using crack cocaine:

Yes I have smoked crack cocaine. But no — do I? am I an addict? — No. have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors, approximately about a year ago. I answered your question. You ask the question properly, I’ll answer it. Yes, I’ve made mistakes. All I can do now is apologize and move on.

Auckland mayor Len Brown admitted having a two year affair but thinks it’s entirely personal  doesn’t think it affected his work then or his ability to continue as mayor now and still says he’s staying put.

Young people think drunken group sex is normal.

There’s a link between all this – an apparent absence of shame.

Illegal and immoral behaviour has always gone on in all levels of society.  But it wasn’t acceptable or something from which everyone could move on without consequences.

It used to be regarded as shameful.

What’s different now is an apparent acceptance that private behaviour doesn’t impact on  public roles, that leaders don’t have to be positive role models and it doesn’t matter if they’re not; that anything goes and that you don’t have to reap what you sow.

Nothing excuses the behaviour of the young men who raped comatose girls and boasted about it in social media.

But the absence of shame in those who are supposed to be setting examples influences what is acceptable and/or normal.

You can turn on television or a computer at any hour of the day or night and find fictional depictions of illegal and immoral behaviour without consequences and now life is imitating art.

This morning at least five Auckland City Councillors will put forward a motion of no confidence in the mayor.

If enough of the others support them to pass the motion, it might shame him into resigning.

If it doesn’t there’s little more they can do – a mayor can’t be sacked for being shameless.


Councillors to move no-confidence in Brown

18/12/2013

Five Auckland councillors have plan to put forward a motion of no-confidence in mayor Len Brown at a council meeting tomorrow.

Howick representatives Dick Quax and Sharon Stewart, Maungakiekie-Tamaki representative Denise Krum, Orakei representative Cameron Brewer and Waitakere representative Linda Cooper have initiated the motion.

The question which will be put forward and voted on is:

“That the Governing Body notes that Len Brown lacks the essential leadership credentials of judgement, honesty, integrity, and credibility and as a result councillors have lost confidence in his ability to carry out his duties as Mayor of Auckland.” . . .

This is a serious step reflecting the seriousness with which at least some of the council view the mayor’s behaviour and shows they understand that judgement, honesty, integrity, and credibility matter.


TIme to go

18/12/2013

Front page editorials are rare, today’s from the NZ Herald, telling Auckland mayor Len Brown it’s time to go, is unprecedented.

When news broke of the Mayor’s two-year affair with Bevan Chuang, this newspaper suggested that if Len Brown’s family could forgive him then the city should, too.

Two months on, that sentiment is no longer sustainable. An issue far more important than the mayor’s private life is now at stake. Tomorrow, Auckland councillors will not only formally censure Mr Brown but begin a process designed to clip the wings of the mayoral office. If that happens, the Super City may no longer have a leader with the independent authority to drive things forward. The only means of avoiding that outcome is for Mr Brown to resign. He must go in the interests of Auckland and Aucklanders. . .

Going into next year, however, the joke will be on all of us if the Super City governance is compromised. The corrosive nature of all this is compounded by doubts that remain and the questions still unanswered – . . .

The affair and all the apologies are one thing but the lax accountability over grace, favour and entitlements and the potential emasculation of his office by the council leave little chance of him regaining the respect of Aucklanders.

Some of the prurient details of Mr Brown’s affair with Ms Chuang probably ought to have been censored. He is about to be censured by the city’s councillors. Now, it is surely time for him to come to his senses – and go.

This is damning but I doubt it will influence him.

He can’t do his job properly but that’s not a sackable offence.

He’s showing no signs of any willingness to fall on his sword which leaves Auckland saddled with a lame-duck mayor for the next three years.

That won’t be good for the city and given it’s size, it won’t be good for the country either.

 


Need for Brown Law

17/12/2013

If ministers misbehave they can be sacked.

There is no ability to do that for a mayor and Watching Brief has a proposal for legislation to change that:

. . .The Minister shall introduce legislation as a matter of urgency providing for the recall and subsequent new election for any elected local government position.

The legislation will be drafted to achieve the following objective;

To allow voters recall a politician if they get the support of at least 10 per cent of the people who voted in the last election. The politician would be removed from office and a by-election would be held. The recalled politician could still run as a candidate. . .

Len Brown’s behaviour and refusal to resign has highlighted council and public impotence in the face of serious transgression by a mayor.

Watching Brief’s proposal should be taken seriously.

It could be called the Brown Law after the man who has shown such legislation is necessary.

Pending that – there is a petition calling on the mayor to resign.


It’s about integrity not politics

16/12/2013

Len Brown says he’s staying.

. . . And while he conceded there were a significant number of people who did not support him, he insisted: “The overwhelming sentiment, no matter what they think of me, is ‘for goodness sake get on with the job’.”

A Herald poll contradicts this:

Should Len Brown remain mayor of Auckland?

9750–9800 votes: Yes 28%    No 72%

But that’s not a scientific poll and even if it was it would be unlikely to influence him.
He’s expected to face tough questions from his council today but what can they do, especially when party politics is likely to play a part?
How would you feel if a right-wing politician secretly took $39,000 from a casino company to cheat on his wife while he was lobbying to have the law changed to benefit that casino company and then lied about it to the public?
Well, my reaction to that would be that the hypothetical right-wing politician was a disgusting, corrupt untrustworthy crook and that he’d disgraced his office and should resign. Which means – since I think politicians should be held to the same standard irrespective of their political allegiances – that I think Len Brown is disgusting, corrupt etc and should resign.
This is about integrity not politics but while Brown’s actions  breached the council code of conduct they were immoral rather than illegal.
He’s not going to jump and it would be very hard to push him when he’s driven by politics rather than integrity.

Bring in the AG

14/12/2013

Fran O’Sullivan is calling for the Auditor General to open a wider inquiry into Len Brown’s abuse of his position.

If he had any skerrick of honour left, Len Brown would by now have tendered his resignation as mayor to the people of Auckland.

It is absolutely clear that Brown has obtained multiple private benefits by virtue of his position as Mayor of Auckland.

It’s now time for Auditor-General Lyn Provost to open up a much wider inquiry to satisfy Aucklanders – and New Zealanders at large – just where Brown’s abuse of his position stopped.

Brown is hopelessly compromised by the Ernst & Young (EY) report, finally released after lengthy “negotiations” between the mayor’s office and Auckland Council chief executive Doug McKay on just what would be made public from the review into the possible use of council resources during the mayor’s two-year affair with Bevan Chuang.  . .

Brown has clearly flouted Auckland Council disclosure guidelines and general standards. This is symptomatic of a politician who believes he is above the rules. The fact that he was a “no show” at yesterday’s press conference indicates Brown has no answers outside the carefully crafted but ridiculous spin that his bevy of well-paid mayoral office press people have been churning out in recent days to try to deflect attention from the damaging findings in the review. . . .

This isn’t just about Auckland.

The rest of the country might love to hate our biggest city but we understand its importance to the rest of the country.

A mayor whose mind – and morals – are elsewhere is not giving the job the concentration and dedication it requires.

This is not a man citizens can look up to. He is not a role model for children. His standards are not those of the leader the city deserves.

His infidelity is a matter for him and his wife. His acceptance of gifts he didn’t declare and failure to reimburse the extensive use of his work phone for private calls and texts, and other matters the Ernst & Young report didn’t cover, are public concerns.

New Zealand’s reputation for lack of corruption relies on proper investigation of any misuse of public resources and the Auditor General is the one who should do that.


Free rooms but ratepayers footed phone bill

13/12/2013

The Ernst & Young report into Len Brown’s affair found:

Auckland mayor Len Brown used his council-funded phone to make more than 1000 personal calls and texts to mistress Bevan Chuang.

A report into the pair’s affair, released this afternoon, said Mr Brown used his council phone to make 1373 calls and texts to Ms Chuang between November 19, 2010 and October 21, 2013.

Ms Chuang said all of the calls and texts were of a personal nature.

The mayor also received nine free hotel rooms which he didn’t declare, valued at $6130.

He also failed to declare 54 hotel upgrades valued at $32,888.50. . .

The rooms didn’t cost ratepayers but the phone calls did.

And there’s the cost of the review:

But will anything happen?


Is this a resignation offence?

03/11/2013

Ian Sinclair’s interview with Bevan Chuang on Sunday canvassed whether or not Auckland Mayor Len Brown wrote a reference for her for a council job after their liaison began:

IAN: And what about your application for the job, um, at the art gallery? Were you in a sexual relationship with him when you applied for that job and he wrote the reference?

BEVAN: He’s one of five referees that I have put on to the list.

IAN: At the time, though, Bevan, at the time when he wrote the reference, was he in a relationship with you? A romantic one, I mean?

BEVAN: Yes.

IAN: He was? Yeah, and at the time when it went forward to the shortlist, was he still there?

BEVAN: Yes.

IAN: But you did use your relationship with him — and it was a romantic relationship — to help gain, get backing for a job, did you not?

BEVAN: Um, he was a referee for the art gallery job, and probably you can say that. I mean, I have got— I’ve got the job, and, of course, the referees are important. Um, and, yeah, that could be the advantage, but I obviously have lost more now than I gained.

A mayor who acts as a referee for someone applying for a council position is at risk of compromising himself at the best of times.

Doing it for a lover is stupid, does it also contravene the council code of conduct?

Brown previously said he wrote the reference in the very early stages of us knowing each other.

If she is telling the truth the word knowing can be understood to be in the Biblical sense.

Is that sufficient offence to require his resignation?

Thankfully #gigatownoamaru is a long way from this tawdry affair.


Webster apologises to Mitchell

26/10/2013

The opposition and some media have done their best to shoot the messenger and turn revelations over Auckland mayor Len Brown’s affair into a right wing conspiracy.

Their case is unravelling with a public apology to National MP Mark Mitchell by Auckland City Councillor Penny Webster for embroiling him in the Len Brown scandal:

. . . “I have decided to make a public statement to set the record straight when I saw him having to defend attacks on his integrity and character by Labour MPs in the Parliamentary debating chamber last night,” Webster said.

“The comment Mark made to me should never have been used for political cheap shots or a character assassination.

”It was not made at a cocktail party or as part of idle gossip. I was in a business meeting with Mark over electoral and council matters when our conversation turned to local government elections and the mayoral campaign. Mark made a passing comment, something like ‘scuttlebutt floating around for a while about the mayor having a skeleton in his closet. If there is a skeleton I hope that his wife and children know because families are always the victims in these sort of things’.”

Webster said she laughed, and said she was sure it wasn’t correct and Mitchell agreed with her.

“It was a generic conversation between him and I, and I deeply regret using his name in a later conversation with the mayor’s chief of staff.”

“I am bitterly disappointed that this information has been used in this way to attack our local MP. I wish to apologise to Mark and his family and I will be focused on re-establishing a strong working relationship that he can have confidence and trust in.”

If there’s anything remarkable about his protracted affair becoming public it’s that it didn’t happen earlier and that there wasn’t something a lot more damning than scuttlebutt about a skeleton in his closet floating about.

The guilty party in this sordid business is Brown and trying to turn the revelations into a political conspiracy won’t exonerate him.


Right and wrong not left and right

23/10/2013

A former Labour MP who worked with people from across the political spectrum on a local body campaign said he’d come to the conclusion that left wing people were far more likely to see things through a political lens than those from the right.

Some people are trying to turn Len Brown’s affair into a right wing conspiracy.

It’s not.

Cameron Slater, who broke the story on his blog Whaleoil, is from the blue end of the political spectrum.

But he doesn’t let that get in the way of his posts. He’d have run the story regardless of the mayor’s political affiliation.

That’s one of the reasons his blog is so popular. Like David Farrar on Kiwiblog, he’ll give praise and criticism where it’s due regardless of the subject’s politics.

Other people from the right had some involvement with Bevan Chuang but Jane Clifton points out:

There’s been much tut-tuttery about the fact that the source of the story was Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil, one of the country’s best-read blogs, which is aggressively pro-National Party to boot. Slater’s father ran the campaign for Brown’s closest mayoralty rival, a campaign Brown’s inamorata was close to through her friendship with another campaign activist. This has brought claims she was secretly working for the other side. Which just goes to show there’s plenty of hypocrisy, paranoia and self-delusion to go around. It’s common for journalists and political junkies in the twittersphere to denounce Whale Oil as “gutter” blogging. But not for the first time, the gutter-shunning media have piled onto Slater’s ruck without a second’s hesitation.

Allegations that this is a deliberate smear campaign generated from within the National Party to destroy a left-leaning mayor are somewhat ambitious. To the best of my knowledge, the National Party cannot make a married man have an affair. For two years. Or trick him into sending silly texts that might be kept and used against him. Or force him to conduct how’s-your-father in the Ngati Whatua conference room of the council chambers.

There’s also the inconvenient fact that the blog did not run the story till after the local body elections in which Brown was safely re-elected. He is unsackable. . .

But the political views of those involved in the affair and its exposure is irrelevant anyway.

This isn’t about right and left, it’s about right and wrong.

Andrew McMillan provides a timeline of events which show:

Brown, who portrayed himself as a loving family man  and committed Christian had a prolonged affair.

He had a sexual trysts in council premises on council time.

The woman with whom he had the relationship was on a council advisory board. That’s not a direct employee but as mayor he was in a position of power and she could be considered to be vulnerable.

He wrote her a reference, and as a side issue he admitted writing worthless references:

Was it an abuse of power to provide a reference for Bevan Chuang?

It was the very early stages of us knowing each other. I have provided many references in supports of lots and lots of friends and people that I know. The letter of support I wrote was a reasonable letter. I tend to be quite positive in my writing for the many people I write references for. It wasn’t a reference that was requested or provided for that was out of the norm. It was, for me, a fairly typical reference done at a time when, quite frankly, we hadn’t known each other all that long. . .

A reference from the mayor would carry considerable weight but his words suggest he dashes them off frequently and in this case without knowing the subject all that long.

Whether that is appropriate for a mayor might be moot but the impact on his family from his infidelity and what it says about his character is not.

Whatever his politics and those of the people who exposed him, he is in the wrong.

Whether or not it will require a resignation will depend on the outcome of a council inquiry.

But whatever it determines won’t make his behaviour right.


Not in front of the children

22/10/2013

Len Brown cancelled a scheduled visit to Three Kings Primary School for its first delivery under Fonterra’s Milk in Schools programme yesterday.

Fonterra ambassador Richie McCaw and MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga managed fine without him.

Photo: This morning I attended the official launch of the Fonterra Milk for Schools program in my electorate at Three Kings School.  The aim is to give all New Zealand primary-aged children the opportunity of drinking nutritious milk every school day.   Good nutrition is the cornerstone to healthy living and this program aims to give kids the best start to their school lives.  I am shown below with Richie McCaw, All Blacks Captain who is Fonterra's brand ambassador.  He is an excellent role model for kids to aspire to both on and off the field!   Over 1,300 schools are part of the scheme and if your school is not part of the scheme I encourage you to please express an interest at www.fonterramilkforschools.com.

Brown made his first post-affair public appearance at the opening of a compact show home later in the day.

This raises a few questions:

  • If it’s not appropriate for him to appear in front of children now, when will it be?
  • Which other audiences will and won’t be appropriate?
  • Who decides?
  • Will those on the latter list affect his ability to do his job properly?

New media breaks news

20/10/2013

The main stream media is attempting to turn the exposure of Len Brown’s infidelity into a left-right political conspiracy.

One angle it hasn’t looked at is it was a blog which broke the news.

Stephen Cook, a former Herald journalist broke the story on Whaleoil.

It’s not the first time a blog has been first with a story but it is, at least in New Zealand I think, the first time for such a big story.

Is that significant?

I don’t think it signals less importance for the old media but it does point to more significance for the new.


Slater Snr not part of story

18/10/2013

Brian Rudman’s column in today’s NZ Herald is headlined sex, blogs and right wing plots.

It deals with the revelations about Auckland mayor Len Brown’s affair but only in a peripheral way.

It’s main target is John Slater who chaired the campaign team for Brown’s main rival, John Palino, and is the father of blogger Whaleoil who broke the story of Brown’s infidelity.

It is personal, nasty and completely unwarranted.

I’ve known John for more than a decade from the time he was president and I was an electorate chair in the National Party. I’ve never had any reason to doubt his integrity and I am sure he is often less than impressed by the tone, language and content of some Whaleoil blog posts.

But he can’t be held responsible for what his adult son does nor for not knowing about what he might be doing.

He had nothing to do with the story or the issue and it’s bizarre to attack him for concentrating on a positive campaign rather than rumours and mud slinging.

The column is despicable and reads as if the writer is using the affair to settle a personal score.

It’s the sort of nasty rubbish you might expect to read in a British tabloid, not in what seeks to be a serious paper.


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