Auckland mayor ducks out of event
Embattled Auckland mayor Len Brown ducked out of another public engagement tonight but the date has been set for his first formal address to the city.
It will be an event he cannot avoid - his swearing-in as mayor.
He pulled out of an appearance at the launch of the Rainbow Community Public Health Report tonight, 10 minutes after he was due to arrive.
The event helps raise awareness around bullying against the gay and lesbian community in workplaces.
An organiser at the event said Brown cited "urgent council business" as a reason for failing to show.
The latest no-show comes just two days after he made his first public appearance since news of his sex scandal broke, and found himself facing a media scrum and a heckler calling "shame".
At that appearance he admitted he wrote a letter of recommendation for his ex-mistress Bevan Chuang in the early stages of their relationship and defended his actions.
"I did not abuse my position of power, there will be many, many people around Auckland who have received similar letters of recommendation," he said on Monday.
On Tuesday Brown will be officially sworn in and will immediately head the first meeting of his new council.
It may also become the first official grilling he receives about his extra marital affair with junior council adviser, 32-year-old Chuang.
Alongside maiden speeches from six new councillors, the meeting allows for any councillor to table "extraordinary business".
Any discussion of his affair has the potential to be blunt and wide ranging. Rules governing council meetings include that "where a meeting is open to the public ...oral statements made at meetings are ... privileged" - meaning no one can be sued for making defamatory statements - "unless the statement is shown to be predominantly motivated by ill will."
While the majority of councillors spoken to have supported Brown and want to forget the affair and focus instead on work to continue key Auckland developments, not all have publicly backed him.
The agenda calls for Brown to outline his vision for Auckland, but there may be some around the table who also want to hear a full and formal mea culpa to the city.
The meeting also requires that the mayor and councillors be reminded of their legal obligations as leaders of the country's largest city.
This includes the issue of "natural justice" with all elected members told "that when making decisions as an elected member, you must not be biased (ie treat anyone with fear or favour); you must not have made up your mind about an issue without listening to all the evidence, views and preferences; and you must not be a judge in your own cause."
Earlier this week Prime Minister John Key denied the National Party had any involvement in revealing Brown’s affair.
Brown’s supporters say they discovered he was about to be outed over his two-year affair with Chuang after a National MP mentioned the rumours to Auckland councillor Penny Webster. She then told Brown.
Key insisted the National Party wasn’t involved in creating the scandal, which was broken on the right-wing WhaleOil blog.
"I don’t believe the National Party has been involved at all. There may be people that knew about it who are members of the National Party or at least vague sort of details," he said.
Key said: "We’ve got nothing against Len."
National MP Mark Mitchell told Fairfax Media he had heard rumours, and they had been widespread for two years.
"There was a lot of scuttlebutt about. But I don’t think I was any more aware of it than anyone else. I certainly didn’t know the specifics about Chuang."
"I have never had any contact with anyone in Len Brown’s campaign team and any comment I made to Penny, whom I have contact with in my role as MP for Rodney, was a very generic throwaway line about politicians and skeletons in the closet."
National has been trying to distance itself from the fallout over Brown’s affair with Chuang – and suggestions the party’s wider network was active in outing Brown.
Chuang became involved with the campaign of Brown’s rival, John Palino, after the relationship ended. She has alleged both Palino and campaign aide Luigi Wewege knew about the relationship before it was made public.
Palino has denied any involvement.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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