Texts, sex and hotels revealed in Brown review
KIRSTY JOHNSTON AND SARAH HARVEY
Should Auckland mayor Len Brown quit?
An inquiry into Auckland Mayor Len Brown's affair with Bevan Chuang went into detail he never expected and may have gone too far, Brown says.
"It's become clear I don't have a private life at all ... and that's difficult to come to terms with," he said.
A review of the affair and whether Brown used council resources to fund it, or if he used his position to Chuang's advantage, was released today.
It found that while Brown had received free hotel suites and upgrades valued at more than $40,000, he did not abuse his role or use ratepayer money inappropriately.
A largely unrepentant Brown told Fairfax Media he and his wife, Shan Inglis, had laid everything on the table for the auditors – including their personal expenditure records – something that had not been expected.
"It was well outside what was originally intended. We didn't think it would have gone into that type of detail," Brown said.
The report was supposed to have been about Chuang – the two questions around resources and influence, he said.
"And it came back with a big fat no to both. Not a dollar of taxpayer money was used at all. It was all about our personal expenditure."
Brown said the issue was mainly one of process – he should have been more careful and got better advice on whether accepting free rooms and upgrades were over $300, the cap on the council's interest register.
The council would "sort out" the issue to make sure it was clear in future, he said.
Earlier he said he hoped the report would "draw a line under the questions the review sought to address".
He will not face repercussions from the expenditure.
Brown said the report showed he had not misused council resources in relation to Chuang.
He said the hotel rooms in question were used by him and his family, and he accepted he should not have used the free hotel rooms.
He called the use of the free rooms an "error of judgment".
Brown used his council-provided cellphone to make 1375 calls and texts to Chuang between November 19, 2010, and October 21 this year. They were personal calls, and personal phone use was permitted.
Costs relating to personal calls were supposed to be reimbursed, and Brown made one $263 payment.
The calls accounted for 10 per cent of his total calls in that period.
The report revealed that Chuang attended events as a translator despite not being on an official list, that Brown made a reference for her for an art gallery job and that the mayoral vehicle was used to transport Chuang on several occasions.
Brown received nine complimentary hotel rooms that went undeclared. The total value was $6130. On top of that, he received $32,888 of hotel upgrades that were undeclared.
Brown said the report noted that "over a three-year period I, and my family, stayed privately in hotels in central Auckland on a number of occasions".
"The arrangements for these hotels were made privately in most cases, and in all cases payment was made privately," he said.
"My reason for staying in the central city is that I often work until late in the evening, attending meetings, functions or civic events, and I start work early the next morning, often for media interviews or breakfast events.
"A significant number of these rooms were also booked and used privately by me and my family.
"I was not charged for nine of these hotel rooms, including one occasion in relation to Ms Chuang.
"As the report notes, I never used council resources for private accommodation or in relation to Ms Chuang, and I do not hold a council credit card.
"However, I accept that as mayor I am subject to a higher standard of public accountability, and in this context I should not have accepted the free rooms offered to me and should have disclosed this fact when I was asked about it in October.
"This was an error of judgment and I apologise to the people of Auckland."
Brown said tonight he and his wife were still together despite his two year affair with Chuang.
During an interview with Campbell Live this evening, Brown was asked whether he and his wife were still together.
"Shan and I are soulmates," Brown said.
"We are totally together."
He admitted he made a "very bad mistake" but said they were continuing to work on their marriage: "We love each other."
He said Brown had not inappropriately used council resources to support the relationship with Chuang.
There were some instances where the relevant council policy was not met or the the use of resources raised questions, he said. This included the personal use of his cellphone and the amount reimbursed.
McKay said declaring gifts was the responsibility of elected members as part of the code of conduct.
He said there was no punishment for breaching the code of conduct.
The review had been "exhaustive and comprehensive" and came at a cost of over $100,000.
"I am now satisfied EY's [Ernst & Young] report has addressed the concerns raised with me," he said.
Prime Minister John Key has said Brown would need to satisfy everyone that his expenditures or use of perks were appropriate.
"In the end, what he'll need to do is satisfy everybody that it's appropriately used council and ratepayer money," he said.
"Provided he's done that, any other actions he's taken is a matter between him and his family."
Key said he had not been given a heads-up on what was in the report.
The review was announced in October.
- Any use of council resources within the Office of the Mayor, in respect of the mayor's relationship with Chuang that contravened council policies (for example, payments and procurement)
- Any improper preferential treatment in relation to Chuang's engagement as an employee, contractor or advisor within the Auckland Council Group; and
- Any other issues the reviewers or chief executive considered related to or arose out of those matters.
When the investigation was announced it was expected to take a maximum of four weeks.
Brown's affair with Chuang, 32, was revealed after he won the mayoralty in October.
Chuang unsuccessfully stood for the Albert-Eden Local Board in the elections, and before that served on the Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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