Fran O’Sullivan – Call in the Auditor-General

Fran O’Sullivan adds another of the cuts in Len Brown’s long and slow death by a 1000 cuts.

Auditor-General Lyn Provost is the right person to take inquiries into Len Brown’s relationship with the SkyCity hotels and casino operator to the obvious next stage.

The mayor of Auckland has attempted to brazen his way through the embarrassing detritus exposed by the EY (Ernst & Young) report into some of the implications of his two-year affair with Bevan Chuang.

But that report, emasculated as it was after legal negotiations between Brown’s lawyer and the Auckland Council’s QC, has put new material on the table which must now be investigated by the Auditor-General herself.

It was fundamentally inappropriate for Brown to take the three freebies and accept five upgrades from the SkyCity and SkyCity Grand hotels in Auckland.

Particularly, as the Auckland Council had to take a position on the Government’s controversial “pokies for convention centre swap” and the mayor – who had previously railed against problem gambling – let his principles melt away.  

The issue the Auditor-General now needs to probe is whether Brown directly solicited any of these personal benefits for himself.

It’s a moot point that these benefits only came his way by virtue of the fact he holds the powerful position of mayor of Auckland.

But the inquiry into the SkyCity relationship must go further and ascertain whether it was Brown himself who solicited the $15,000 donation the casino operator gave to his 2010 mayoral campaign.

Brown said at the time the SkyCity donation did not influence his position on the Government deal.

But it obviously made a mockery of his campaign for a sinking lid policy to get fewer pokies in Auckland.

Politically the SkyCity freebies are the most damaging.

As new details emerge of Brown’s behaviour I suspect we will find out that his public statements don’t match his sneaky and furtive private actions.

in the Auditor-General’s case there is a firm basis on which to make more inquiries of Brown, the mayor’s office and SkyCity. The EY report is fact-based. But it also suffers from the obvious limitation of being a report commissioned by Auckland Council CEO Doug McKay into his boss.

Provost is not constrained by any such relationship and, importantly, has the power to inquire and make relevant comment.

The EY report – as published – shies away from disclosing whether Brown solicited any of the nine freebies he had in four city hotels or requested any of the 64 upgrades.

The impression by Brown’s public comments is that his wife, Shan Inglis, made most of their hotel bookings.

But it stretches credibility to believe Inglis would have made the booking for her husband’s rendezvous with Chuang in a SkyCity hotel bedroom.

It also stretches credibility to believe that the duty managers around town in the three hotels where Chuang said they conducted their trysts – SkyCity, the Hilton, and the Langham – did not know of Brown’s dalliances.

EY saves the mayor some embarrassment by failing to distinguish between Brown’s overnight stays and his daytime stays in hotels. A footnote to the report simply says “room nights refers to both night stays and day stays”.

It is unclear whether these so-called “room nights” cover the pop-in arrangements that Brown was said to have when a room was sought for a few hours for him to get away from the pressures of the office.

Reliable sources say the report was significantly trimmed back.

I seriously doubt Brown’s claims that his wife booked the hotels, especially the day time stays when everyone else was working. It also beggars belief that Len Brown was the luckiest man in the world with upgrades. If Brown solicited those upgrades himself then it makes his public statements to Campbell Live and other media lies.

I agree with Fran O’Sullivan, there needs to be a wider ranging investigation in Brown’s activities. He called in the Auditor-General the last time he got kicked in the cods, why isn;t he calling for the A-G to involve herself this time?

Len Brown has claimed that there is no more to come…he knows as well as I do that his claim is a lie.

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