Editorial: The sooner Brown goes, the better

Last updated 15:36 20/12/2013

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Len Brown is done. The sooner he and the councillors who slapped him over the wrist with a wet bus ticket yesterday realise it, the sooner Auckland can get on with its business.

Mr Brown's crime is not his extra-marital affair with a woman 25 years his junior. It is the way he has dealt with the affair becoming public and what has been revealed by the investigation into his conduct.

His attempts to paint himself as a victim and to duck responsibility for his actions have damaged his credibility. His breaking of Auckland City Council rules has damaged the reputation of the council. Pleading ignorance of the rules or that he was distracted by other matters is not an excuse. As mayor Mr Brown had a responsibility to acquaint himself with the rules and to abide by them.

The inquiry into his conduct by accounting firm EY shows he failed to do so. He used a council-provided phone to make 1375 calls and texts to his mistress between November 2010 and October 2013, but did not reimburse the council for any calls made after October 2012. He accepted almost $40,000 worth of free rooms and upgrades from Auckland hotels, but did not declare any of them in his annual declaration of interests. ''I just didn't bring my mind to it clearly enough,'' he said earlier this week.

Both failures fall below the standards expected of publicly-elected officials, but it is particularly concerning that the mayor did not see fit to declare three free rooms and five room upgrades from SkyCity hotels, given that SkyCity is in the midst of a controversial expansion programme that he has supported.

Mr Brown yesterday ''unreservedly'' accepted a council censure and recommendation that he contribute to the $100,000 cost of the EY report. That is insufficient, however.

He, and his remaining supporters on the council, need to realise that Auckland is bigger than him. His continuing presence is an embarrassment and a distraction to the city he claims to love.He cannot impart a sense of direction to the city while he is ducking the public and avoiding the media. He cannot uphold standards for councillors when he has lowered them himself. And while questions persist about his conduct, the council cannot turn its attention to matters that actually concern Aucklanders.

The new council has only been in office for a couple of months but already Mr Brown's hand-picked deputy, Penny Hulse, says councillors are ''worn out'' by the fallout from Mr Brown's affair.That is as good an indication as any that he has exhausted his political capital.

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''You have sat too long for any good you have been doing,'' Oliver Cromwell famously told the Rump Parliament in 1653. ''Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!''

Mr Brown should heed the sentiment.He has broken the rules, lowered standards and lost the respect of the people he represents and the people he is required to deal with as mayor of the country's largest city. He should resign.

- The Dominion Post

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