Auckland Mayor Len Brown provided his eventual mistress with help to get a job with an Auckland Council subsidiary, at the same time as she says he was trying to establish a sexual relationship with her.
Bevan Chuang, who had an affair with Brown for two years, used the mayor as a reference on her CV in an application for a job at the Auckland Art Gallery.
On 4 July 2011 Brown's office was contacted by the gallery, a subsidiary of the Auckland Council, and asked if the mayor could provide a reference for her application, according to the mayor's office.
The mayor's diary officer was asked to provide a short response to say that the mayor highly recommended Chuang.
Chuang was given the position at the art gallery.
The reference was provided before the sexual relationship had started but Brown had already begun sexual advances towards Chuang, according to an affidavit she had published on the affair.
He first met Chuang in May 2011 after which Brown began regularly contacting her, texting her twice a day and calling her up to five times a week, according to Chuang.
The pair began having closed door meetings and it was during one of those meetings in June that Brown kissed Chuang, she said.
His office provided the reference in July and his advances continued until a sexual relationship began shortly after her birthday in August.
A spokesperson for Brown said that they did not believe the mayor had done anything wrong over the job application.
An electoral law expert said that the situation did not appear to show that Brown had breached the local authority legislation, or to have had a conflict of interest.
"The Auckland Art Gallery is run by a CCO so it is sort of run at arm's length from the council. So it's not as though Mayor Len Brown was actually in a position where he would be making decisions to who the Auckland Art Gallery hired," said James F Dunne, Senior Associate at Chen Palmer law firm.
"That would be a more classical conflict of interest," he said.
But there were a raft of issues that could potentially arise from the Council's Code of Conduct, Dunne said.
"I am reluctant to pass judgment on any one of them because ultimately that is a question for the council," he said.
Even if the actions did not breach the law or the council's code, Dunne questioned the decision making of the Mayor.
"If you are the mayor of Auckland council and a CEO from an organisation you are in charge of rings you up and asks you for a reference for someone applying for a job you might think twice if it is acceptable," said Dunne.
"Just because it is not specifically prohibited doesn't mean it was a wise thing to do," he said.
"Ultimately it is an arms length organisation but on the other hand the buck stops on your desk," he said.
FEUD BETWEEN EX-MISTRESS, BLOGGER
A war of words has erupted between Chuang and the man whose blog broke the story.
In a Facebook post last night, Chuang claimed she had been used to advance a political agenda.
"I have been foolish, but I feel used, abused and manipulated by people I thought were friends who have been taking snippets of what I have said to advance their own political agendas and muck-raking campaigns,'' Chuang wrote.
"And would Cam Slater and (unsuccessful Auckland mayoral candidate John) Palino's team PLEASE stop texting and calling me. This is harassment!"
Nonsense, says Cameron Slater, publisher of the right-wing website Whale Oil, which broke the story Monday.
"We put her up in a hotel at our expense to stop the media hounding. Last time I text was about three days ago, the last email I sent to her was yesterday. Stephen Cook has been with her for most of the last 48 hours," Slater said."
I struggle to see how that is harassment."
Chuang was looking for the limelight, but did not realise how big this would get and now she is not coping with the pressure of the public scrutiny, he said.
"I just don't think she is coping with the pressure and thinking straight. We were very careful to explain to her what was going to happen. We were very careful to explain to her that she was going to come under extreme pressure," he said.
Any claims of Chuang being put under pressure by him to go public with the affair are false, Slater said.
"We gave her plenty of opportunity to get out of it, to not do it. She willingly signed the affidavit. And she entered into it willingly," he said.
Slater admitted that he had political reasons for revealing the affair.
"Of course politics was involved. Of course I want to knock Len Brown over I have tried to knock him over before with his expenses at Manukau. He weaselled his way out of that one and he is trying to weasel his way out of this too," he said.
But he denied the scandal is a right wing conspiracy.
"The guy is a rat bag, he has a proven history of rat bag behaviour and I am going to continue to hold him to account irrespective of his politics. If that was a National MP or a right wing councillor, or a right wing mayor anywhere else in the country, I will run them through just as hard," he said.
Also today, Deputy Auckland Mayor Penny Hulse said the intrusion into the private life of Brown in an obvious political manoeuvre sets a dangerous precedent in New Zealand politics.
"There has been that kind of journalistic code that there is no cross over with private lives. I think this case will have a lot of people worried, because it has been a cross over case," said Hulse.
While it might have a place in US politics, we don't want it here, Hulse said.
"Making political gains out of peoples private lives is a really slippery slope. It is a culture that New Zealand politics absolutely doesn't need," she said.
BROWN'S CHILDREN OFFER SUPPORT
Meanwhile, Brown's children have spoken publicly of their support for their father in a statement to the New Zealand Herald. Daughter Sam Brown, writing on behalf of her sisters Olivia and Victoria, said they "stand by our father today more than ever before".
"We have given our father to the community for a 24 hour, 7 day a week job," the statement said.
"We are proud of the job he has done and continue to support him. Let his last three years of performance and accomplishments be his measure.
"Let the issue of fidelity be a personal one. He was not elected as a husband or father but as a man who could serve the people of Auckland.
"That is what he has done over the last term and will continue to do if given the chance. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
"For us, we are going through a challenging time, but we continue to see the great work he has done and are so proud to call him our dad."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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