$1.2 million budgeted for just three staff in Len Brown’s office

Len Brown

There has been much made of wayward spending at Auckland Council.

Recently details emerged of millions of dollars spent by Len Brown’s council utilising the Labour party’s pollster UMR. There are also serious fraud investigations underway in Auckland Transport.

On top of that in recent years there has been increasing alarm at the vast sums of money being spent in Len Brown’s office on staff involved in PR, media liaison, and spin. The costs of all that in 2012 were calculated at $3.2 million:

Figures released to Mr Brewer show it cost $3.2 million to run the mayor’s office in the first 12 months of the Super City, much of which was spent on 23 staff, contractors and consultants.

“The mayoral budget is far too fat … This is really empire-building stuff,” said the right-leaning Orakei councillor and Mr Brown’s loudest critic on council.

That budget appears to have extended alarmingly with the recent appointment to Len Brown’s office of just three staff.

Information obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act show that Len Brown has recently appointed three staff, two of them part-time to positions in his office with rather large contract rates. The total approved expenditure and contracts amounts are for $1.2 million for three staff. 

The Council in their response said:

“The contract values listed …are the maximum foreseeable cumulative for the whole of the contract term, this being a full fixed term contract of three years where all contracts expire at the end of October 2013. These figures do not represent amounts paid against this contract value.”

This is highly unusual. The procurement paperwork for these contracts was only sent through the council procurement office on 22 May 2013, in an election year. To sign up staff to the mayoral office for three years just a few months out from tan election is highly presumptuous. Even taking their explanation that the amounts quoted are for three years the sums are staggering.

Jacques Victor of Vicon Limited has a full-time contract to provide services as a “Senior Advisor re: Unitary/Annual/Spatial Plan” for $650,000 over the life time of the contract. Over three years that equates to $216,666 per annum. This is equivalent in dollar terms to the salary of a minister outside of cabinet with more than one portfolio, it is certainly more than a single portfolio minister outside of cabinet…and just for policy advice? Jacques Victor was formerly the Director of strategy, Rodney District Council.

Mike Joseph of Built Solutions Limited has been appointed a part time staff member contracting as the Mayoral Office liaison officer. His contract is for $400,000 or for $133,333 per annum for a 3 year contract. It is part time work remember, doing whatever a Mayoral Liaison officer does. He is receiving remuneration in line with a back bench MP salary and for only a part time role.

Steve Armitage, part time speech writer

Steve Armitage, part time speech writer

Steve Armitage of Three Point Two Communications is another part time member contracted as the Mayoral Speech Writer. His contract is for $150,000 or $50,000 per annum. Again it is part time. His words must be dripping with ratepayer gold at those rates. Steve Armitage also claims on his LinkedIn page to be the head of corporate relations for another council organisation, ATEED. Clearly booking two spaces at the trough it would seem.

All of these appointments appear to have been ‘direct award contracts’…the council response describes them as “direct sourcing by theMayor’s office in accordance with the provisions of the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009”. Perhaps that is council speak for shoulder tapped by a mate.

Len Brown seems to be continuing to use the public purse to fund his re-election. When you look at these appointments and add to the fact that Glyn Jones, who is Brown’s Chief Press Secretary, a council paid position who is introducing himself to all and sundry as Len Brown’s campaign manager. I’m not sure that ratepayers will be too enamoured with knowing we are paying the campaign manager’s salary.

The mayors office does not exist to provide re-election funds for the mayor, nor to provide staff.

It is also inappropriate to be initiating 3 year contracts in political positions this close to an election. Len Brown needs to start being honest with the people of Auckland.

LGOIMA Request – Auckland Council by Cam Slater

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.