Hints of more details about Auckland Mayor Len Brown

IAN STEWARD, KIRSTY JOHNSTON, ROB KIDD AND SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 18:26 16/10/2013
Fairfax NZ

The debate heats up over whether embattled Auckland Mayor Len Brown should keep his job.

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Len Brown
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Embattled Auckland Mayor Len Brown arrives at the Town Hall, a day after admitting he had an affair with a younger woman.

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FRONTING UP: Len Brown spoke on TV within hours of the affair breaking

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The man who revealed the affair between Auckland Mayor Len Brown and junior council advisor Bevan Chuang said more details are to come but he denied knowledge of "another woman".

Since news broke yesterday and the Auckland mayor confirmed the two-year affair, Chuang has avoided media and shut down her Twitter and blog pages.

Today she was due to speak to Radio Live but pulled out at the last minute and was instead represented by Stephen Cook, who broke the story.

"She's obviously going through a range of emotions ... she's fragile, delicate and a little bit under siege," Cook said.

"She just needs some time to compose herself and decide where to go from here."

Chuang believed there was a "smear campaign" against her and had her suspicions over who was behind it.

"Yes, she's the woman involved but Len Brown's the story," Cook said.

"She's been forced to go into hiding and that's not a comfortable feeling for anyone. She thinks the focus should be on Len Brown and his conduct – he's the mayor of Auckland and the question should be whether his conduct was acceptable."

Cook confirmed there are further details around the scandal, but would not reveal exactly what they were.

"The detail was salacious, but that level of detail was required because she wanted to be believed and being vague would make people question whether or not her story was genuine."

Show host Duncan Garner asked him whether he knew about "another woman", but Cook denied it.

"She [Chuang] didn't anticipate this level of attention, but it's happened now and she accepts she's going to have to deal with it," he said.

Cook said Chuang was a "smart woman" who now had to look at protecting her reputation and he believed she would front media some time in the next 24 hours.

Rebutting online rumours, Brown spokesman David Lewis said the embattled mayor is not planning to resign on Friday - or any other day. 

"He had an affair, he's admitted it, and now he's getting on with running the city," Lewis said.

"He has no plans to resign. It hasn't been discussed or proposed. He's only just been elected."

Prime Minister John Key has refused to comment on the affair and said it did not affect his ability to work with the mayor.

"Len's got a job to do as the mayor of Auckland; he's always worked very effectively with the Government," Key said.

"From the Government's point of view we're interested in the things that matter to Auckland and that's certainly housing, as is transport, and we will be talking to Len about that."

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Key also rejected any involvement by National in the release of details about the affair.

Interviews and an online opinion poll, meanwhile, have found Kiwis were split on whether Brown should resign in the wake of the sex scandal.

With over 18,000 people voting on the Stuff poll - which was not scientific but still a rough gauge of public opinion - 45.7 per cent said Brown should resign and 54.3 per cent said he should stay.

Man on the street interviews with Aucklanders revealed a similar split in public opinion. (see video)

"He's got no public opinion right anymore," one man said.

"His opinion's worth nothing."

"Didn't bother me; don't care," another man said.

"People do that sort of thing, I guess, right?"

On social media, Aucklander Althea Lovell offered a pragmatic defence of the mayor, saying she hoped people would stop calling for his resignation. 

I wish people would stop calling for #LenBrown to resign, yes he's a selfish pig, but it doesn't mean he isn't doing a good job as mayor!

- Althea Lovell (@Althea_Lovell) October 16, 2013

But Simone, of Wellington, tweeted she'd be hard-pressed to trust the mayor now.

My thoughts on Len Brown: I'd trust anyone less if they would betray their own family. #thatsall

- Simone (@__SimOh) October 15, 2013

One political commentator said that Brown's self-created "saintly image" would be his downfall. 

Brown had developed and campaigned on an image of a family man and worn his religious beliefs on his sleeve, making the scandal much more harmful, media and political commentator Brian Edwards said.

"If you have been a bad boy you can probably get away with something like this, Edwards said.

"If you have a halo above your head, which I think Len Brown would have and has partly put there himself, the fall from grace is much more severe."

However, Otago University political scientist Bryce Edwards said political scandals and infidelity were common events and would not prevent Brown from continuing as mayor of Auckland.

"So much of modern politics involves scandals and allegations of impropriety that I think we need to develop a culture of a bit more tolerance of the personal lives of politicians," Edwards said.

"My feeling at the moment is Brown will survive this scandal. It will soon be forgotten to some degree."

However, any further allegations could be dangerous for Brown's future in the mayor's office, he said.

Brown, a 57-year-old married father of three, yesterday confessed a two-year affair with Bevan Chuang, 32.

She stood unsuccessfully for the Albert-Eden local board in last week's elections and serves on the council's Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel.

BROWN 'FAILED DISMALLY' BUT WON'T FALL ON SWORD

Brown admitted yesterday he had "failed dismally" in his personal life, but insisted: "My record stands in terms of my political service." He said he was "very clear" in his commitment to stay as mayor, but was also "listening to the community".

He apologised to Aucklanders, but asked that they "stand by me".

In an interview with TV3's John Campbell, he said there was "an element of political endeavour" around the timing of the revelations.

"In my view there is a clear will or determination to try and force a resignation, and in fact destroy me."

The affair was detailed on the Whaleoil blog site, including details that the pair had sex at Auckland hotels and in council chambers. At one point they were caught by a security guard, who did not report the incident.

Yesterday, iPredict, the online political betting website, opened a contract on Brown resigning as mayor by January 1 next year. It is currently trading at 54 cents, or a probability of just over 50 per cent.

According to the Department of Internal Affairs, a mayor can be forced from office only if they are absent from four consecutive council meetings without leave, are convicted of an offence or ruled incapable of holding office by a judge.

What do you think? Should Len Brown stay as mayor or does he need to resign? Please use good taste in leaving comments.

- Fairfax Media

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