Len Brown apologises to councillors

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 17:15 16/12/2013
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Auckland mayor Len Brown will be censured by his councillors who feel he has brought the organisation into disrepute after the fall-out from his two-year affair.

Brown today offered a full and unconditional apology to councillors in a five-hour meeting.

During the closed-door meeting, councillors had the chance to question Brown about the Ernst and Young report ordered in the wake of his affair with Bevan Chuang.

Deputy mayor Penny Hulse said although they noted the apology, there was a strong feeling of disappointment.

"The councillors have expressed their disappointment at the mayor's actions, they've expressed very clearly their concern that this has brought the council into disrepute, and we feel that we need to work very hard to rebuild from this," said Hulse.

"We're going to work hard in the interests of the people of Auckland to move ahead."

Hulse said there was "pretty good agreement" on recommendations which will be made at a public meeting on Thursday.

Those recommendations include that the councillors receive the independent review commissioned by EY into Brown's spending.

The meeting would also address the councillors' "profound disappointment and disapproval" of Brown's inappropriate conduct and undeclared conflicts of interest, which were the subject of the EY report and which they say have damaged the council's reputation and caused widespread concern among the public.

The councillors also planned to request that Brown make full reimbursement of all remaining personal costs and make appropriate contributions to other costs incurred by the council during his affair.

They want the incoming chief executive to review the process for managing and overseeing interests both in the mayoral office and with elected members.

Earlier today, Brown said that there had been a "full, frank and robust discussion" at the meeting.

"I understand the frustration and disappointment that councillors feel. I realise that I have a good deal of work to regain their trust and rebuild our working relationships in the interests of Auckland. This is my focus, starting today." 

The meeting follows weekend talks among councillors, some of whom have taken legal advice over what measures they can take to censure Brown and bring greater oversight to the mayoral office.

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A group of councillors from both sides of the political fence asked council chief executive Doug McKay on Friday to prepare "as full a suite of measures as possible" that could be taken against Brown under standing orders or statute.

Some councillors believe an oversight committee would keep a check on Brown's powers. Unlike other mayors around the country, he has executive powers that extend to control of the council's budget and governance, introduced with the Super City.

"There's no oversight there at all - it's gone from the sublime to the ridiculous," one councillor said at the weekend.

"Ideally the Government should be stepping in. Some of us are humiliated by what is happening to Auckland's reputation and we want to make sure this doesn't happen again."

The report found that although Brown did not misuse council resources during his affair, he made 1375 texts and calls to his mistress and failed to declare more than $39,000 in free hotel rooms and upgrades, as well as a NRL Grand Final ticket and an iPad.

- Stuff

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