Brown zaps city's card

BY JONATHAN MARSHALL
Last updated 09:33 06/06/2010

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Supercity front-runner Len Brown is the latest mayor to be caught zapping his council credit card on personal purchases - such as $74.45 for insect repellent at a South Auckland pharmacy.

Brown has used his card to buy groceries from Foodtown, take his wife to Auckland's Rendezvous Hotel and buy a stereo system from Dick Smith Electronics. The personal expenditure totalling $579.27 has now been refunded to Manakau City Council, where Brown has been mayor since 2007.

However, the cost of a July 5 visit to Life Pharmacy where Brown purchased sunscreen and insect repellent for $74.45 was put on ratepayers because it was used "for a trip with prime minister [John Key] to Pacific Islands".

Brown is standing as mayor of the Auckland supercity and according to a number of polls is in the lead against his opponent John Banks.

Brown's mayoral credit card statements for the year ending May 2010 reveal he has racked up $10,864.98 in expenses.

The Bank of New Zealand statements include 22 transactions which are coded as "meals for mayor between engagements". Also appearing are transactions where ratepayers have been forced to cough up for "fruit for mayor", "refreshments for mayor", "box of chocolates for mayor" and "mayoral Christmas gifts".

A number of transactions made at restaurants and bars are not accompanied with a description despite the Sunday Star- Times asking for each one to be itemised, as required under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

A letter from the council's chief executive Leigh Auton said he was "completely satisfied" with the mayor's expenditure.

"Spending on credit cards has always been an area of public interest," Auton's letter says. "The council has in place robust procedures to ensure that spending on credit cards is for the purposes associated with council business."

Brown refused to speak to the Star-Times about his spending and instead had his Auckland Council campaign press secretary David Lewis respond to inquiries.

Lewis said Brown had no time "to sit down and go through a year's worth of statements".

His only comment was that expenditure was "in line" with council policy.

Last weekend the Star-Times reported that Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey spent $5757.81 in the year ending April 2010. Of that, $1423.44 went on personal items - although the council was reimbursed.

North Shore mayor Andrew Williams spent $8786.48 on his council credit card, mainly at restaurants and bars.

Banks does not use a council credit card and said he had never asked ratepayers to reimburse expenses.

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- Sunday Star Times

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