Brown faces bill

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 07:31 20/12/2013
Len Brown
PETER MEECHAM/ FairfaxNZ
UNDER FIRE: Len Brown.

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A team of senior Auckland councillors and lawyers today begin a lengthy process to work out how much embattled mayor Len Brown will have to repay, after he was formally censured yesterday.

The mayor ''unreservedly'' accepted a censure by councillors over his actions during a two year affair with council advisory board member Bevan Chuang.

As a result he has given his word that he will put money towards the more than $100,000 cost of an Ernst and Young  review into his behaviour during the affair, and will repay personal costs such as the use of his mobile phone for personal calls and texts.

The report showed Brown did not misuse council resources during his affair but 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 an NRL Grand Final ticket and an iPad.

It is not known how much he will have to repay. The final cost of the Ernst and Young review is also unknown.

Getting the mayor to pay was the sticking point for councillors, many of whom felt the mayor had shown a lack of contrition over the affair.

A vote of no confidence, sought by a quarter of the councillors, was not allowed due to council standing orders. The vote, no matter the result, would not have had any binding effect on Brown.

He would not have to resign.

The debate at the meeting was often heated and punctuated by persistent heckles from the public gallery.

Councillor Christine Fletcher said: ''From a personal perspective . . . am I angry? You bet I am angry. Am I personally affronted? Yes I am.

''I am someone who has never voted for Len Brown. I don't think he is going to last . . his brand is tarnished.''

However Fletcher said the councillors did not have the power to remove the mayor.

She said the most effective way to repay ratepayers was to get him to repay some of the cost of the review.

Councillor Cameron Brewer, an outspoken opponent of Brown, said he thought the auditor general should be brought in to deal with the issue of free hotel rooms and in particular those at SkyCity.

He said the mayor should be asked for ''full and final disclosure'' and should pay for at least some of the report costs.

''This reputation damage will only go on and on and on'', he said.

Brewer said the situation was ''reputational carnage'' for the Auckland Council.

''A lot of people will see this as a telling off but in the end a wet bus ticket,'' he said.

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Brewer said the mayor would no longer have credibility in Wellington.

Councillor Mike Lee, a local body politician for more than 21 years,  said the resolution was: ''The most severe chastisement of a fellow politician that one can give''.

''I fear that whatever we can do, this bitterness and divisiveness . . . may be a permanent feature,'' he said.

Brown was brief in his response.

He said: ''I appreciate it's been a long and challenging debate for you. I accept absolutely unreservedly your recommendations. I will endeavour to do everything within those.''

- Stuff

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