Manukau City

Tell us the truth Len, without limits

Len Brown was elected promising to open the books, but he has kept his own books on campaign donations firmly shut. The Herald headline is “Mayor relies on secret war chest” and the Dominion Post headline is “Auckland Mayor hides names of campaign donors

Auckland’s first Super City mayor was elected using largely anonymous donations, despite promising to lead an administration of openness and accountability to the public.

Of Len Brown’s total campaign war chest of $581,900 in donations, $499,000 was folded into a single trust to protect the identity of those who gave money to help elect him but wished to remain nameless.

Only 15 donors were named in his returns yesterday to Auckland electoral officer Dale Ofsoske, the largest of $17,708 attributed to an entity called Fuqing, with $15,000 from casino operator SkyCity.

The Maritime Union gave $2000 each to Mr Brown and Auckland Council transport committee chairman Mike Lee, who listed no other donations in his election returns.

Mr Brown’s campaign also received $3375 from the Counties Manukau Pacific Trust, whose chief executive, Richard Jeffery, was appointed this week as a director of the Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development council-controlled organisation.

Now I guess we know why the Chow brothers building was pulled down with alarming alacrity. We also know now how John Robertson and Richard Jeffrey scored their CCO jobs. John Robertson is a trustee if the Counties Manukau Pacific Trust and Richard Jeffrey is the CEO, but more on this in a moment.

Len Brown campaigned on openness, he even gets his lickspittle, tame repeater Bernard Orsman to print stories about how open Len Brown is. Yet when it comes to openness with his own election finance and donation we find that like almost everything else about Len Brown it is a stonking great secret. The hypocrisy of the man is astounding.

The secret trust, strangely called “The New Auckland Council Trust”, is an enigma. Questions need to be asked about this secret trust. When was it formed? Who are the trustees? Where is the trust deed?

It’s all very murky from “Labour’s Mayor“. Phil Goff and Phil Twyford really need to answer some questions about their Mayor’s use of big money secret trsuts to fund his campaign. They are on record being against such secret trusts and even passed a law to prevent such things happening.

“What I would like to see is a system where democracy works but doesn’t rely simply on the power of the dollar and you don’t have some clandestine funding which was the real concern that lay behind the Electoral Finance Act,”

Let’s see if Phil Goff and Phil Twyford have anything other than weasel words about Len Brown’s secret trust. Phil Twyford was especially concerned about the influence of big money in elections earlier in the year.

Since then, there has been the rather unhappy progress of the Electoral Finance Act, and to my mind the really unfortunate failure of this House to build a lasting consensus about the need to limit the influence of big money in our political system.

Quite apart from Len’s secret trust account used to hide his big money corporate backers there is a real problem surrounding the donation from Counties Manukau Pacific Trust.

Fors a start the trust is essentially part of the new city structure, and previously was, by definition a part of Manukau City Council (pdf pg 11.). The same trust now owes the new Auckland Council (previously Manukau City Council $7.5 million (pg 29).

Worse the Trust’s audited statements show an annual operations grant of $385,000 and the $7.5million loan from Manukau City Council: (pg 10)

But the real problem is that Richard Jeffrey is the CEO and John Robertson is a trustee. They are in control of what can only be described as ratepayer funds and they have donated some of those ratepayer funds to Len Brown’s campaign. The same person who pushed through council the funding in the first place and also the same person who secretly appointed the two of them to CCO board positions.

On the surface it would appear that Richard Jeffrey and John Robertson used ratepayers funds to donate to Len Brown’s campaign in order buy themselves cushy jobs on CCO boards. The only thing that could make this story worse would be if Richard Jeffrey also attended the still secret Volare dinner.

No wonder Len Brown was being very furtive and secretive over his board appointments and no wonder he wanted to rush them through in secret before the election donations were revealed. I seriously doubt whether even his supporters on the secret council committee would have countenanced the appearance of bribery in their decisions.

Certainly I think there is enough here for the Auditor-General to have a look see, especially around that massive secret trust of big money, but more importantly around the apparent buying of CCO board positions with ratepayer funds. Len Brown campaigned on opening the books, he campaigned on honesty (but with limits) and he campaigned on being straight with us.

So far he has shown that those were just tawdry lies designed to hoodwink voters into thinking he was honest.

Why the secrecy Len?

In the SST on Sunday Jonathan Marshall again busted Len Brown fro his pay off of campaign workers and golden handshakes, and this morning Len Brown excluded the public from the meeting to confer those favours on his campaign helpers.

For some bizarre reason Fairfax hasn’t seen fit to put Marshall’s story online, (read it here ) so I will have to quote from Bernard Orsman’s regurgitation this morning. First the golden parachute rort;

Former Papakura District Council chief executive Theresa Stratton has started work in Mayor Len Brown’s office weeks after receiving a redundancy payment of $209,730.

It is understood Ms Stratton has been able to keep the money because of an employment technicality.

She has gone from a full-time position in her old job to a three-year fixed-term contract as a senior planning adviser in the mayor’s office.

Her new contract does not have provision for redundancy.

Theresa Stratton should be made to pay back the parachute payment. It is unconscionable that the ratepayers of first Papakura District Council and second the new Auckland Council have been ripped off with the dodgy appointment processes surrounding the appointment of Theresa Stratton. Those processes are nowhere near as dodgy as the practices of secrecy and with-hunts being orchestrated by Len Brown over CCo appointments.

Richard Jeffrey and Pauline Winter, both members of Mr Brown’s mayoral campaign, will be paid $35,000 a year as directors of the Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development and Auckland Council Investments CCOs respectively.

Former Labour Party president Mike Williams – Mr Brown is a Labour Party member – and former Papakura Mayor John Robertson will make $52,500 and $35,000 a year as board directors of the Auckland Transport and Regional Facilities CCOs.

Last week, it was revealed that Mr Brown’s former chief executive at Manukau City Council, Leigh Auton, and former Manukau deputy mayor, Gary Troup, would be appointed to the property and regional facilities CCOs boards respectively.

They will each be paid $35,000 a year.

Mr Brown has refused to say anything about why he is putting so many close political allies forward for jobs at today’s CCO strategy and appointments subcommittee and whether Ms Stratton should pay back her redundancy.

Why won’t Len Brown tell us anything. He promised us he would be an open book. Is this his what he means when he says he will give us “straight answers, but always with a limit”.

It seems that Len is cultivating a culture of secrecy instead of the transperency that he promised us. Just today he is excluding the public from the meeting to appoint CCO board members, which is ironic because he demanded that CCOs hold meetings in public. It seems that Len Brown has standards for transparency that he likes to apply to others but not to himself. Not only is Len Brown secretive, but he is actually justifying and explaining it.

Members of the public have this morning been excluded from a meeting as Auckland councillors debate who will head the city’s Council Controlled Organisations (CCOs).

Seven CCOs have been set up to deliver services and manage some of the council’s assets, such as Auckland Transport and the Waterfront Development Agency.

Salaries range from $35,000 to $52,000 for a CCO director’s work, which is essentially part time.

The council this morning passed a resolution to exclude the public from a meeting of the CCO strategy and appointments sub-committee, with only one Councillor, Jami-Lee Ross, voting against it.

Thank god there is one honest councillor in Jami-lee Ross. What a pity that Penny Hulse and Len Brown are running the city like secretive uber-lords.

However Mayor Len Brown defended the move, saying it was in order to protect the reputation of the CCO applicants.

Speaking to the committee before the motion was passed Ross said he was concerned the debate behind closed doors would mean the process would not be as transparent as possible.

He said he did not buy the argument that good people would not put themselves forward in the future if the CCO appointments were done in a public meeting.

“The final sign-off with identified people should be done publicly.”

He said there was no reason to have the vote behind closed doors.

Deputy mayor Penny Hulse spoke in favour of the excluding the public, saying she would be extremely uncomfortable for the applicants to have the committee discuss their credentials in public.

She said the applicants had a legal right to have their reputations protected and also the council had to protect itself over any privacy issues.

Brown agreed the decision to exclude the public was to protect the applicants’ reputation.

“Much of what we do in this committee will be a matter of public record but this is the issue where we are protecting people’s reputation.”

WTF…the reputation of key Brown campaign helpers? The reputation of Mike Williams? The reputation of the man who is the bagman for the singer at the now infamous and secret Volare dinner, a dinner that Len Brown broke his own council rules over and one he still is refusing to tell about, the same dinner that Richard Jeffrey attended, the same Richard Jeffreyy who donated money to Len Brown’s campaign in 2007…that reputation…yeah that needs to be protected.

This is nothing short of cronyism and political payoffs. Who ever is advising Len Brown is either stupid or not being listened to. This must be what Len Brown means when he said “Transparency is not a perfect thing,” and “Transparency doesn’t just happen in a perfect world.”

Clearly this is the limits that Len Brown speaks of when giving us the straight answers. So far we have seen almost no impact on the 100 projects in 100 days but rapid spending on flash new chairs to sit in, jobs for the liars and cheats who covered his tracks at Manukau and now jobs for hacks who patted his back and cajoled the churches in South Auckland. Len Brown might just be the fastest moving trougher on the planet.

Len Brown says do as I say not as I do

Bernard Orsman reports that Len Brown is conducting a witch-hunt after Jonathan Marshall got the drop on the secret appointment processes being run by Len Brown to put his mates into CCO jobs.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has ordered an investigation into a councillor suspected of leaking the names of council-controlled organisation (CCO) board appointments.

A source close to Mr Brown said the mayor had “lost faith in a member of the committee and is asking the chief executive to conduct a full investigation into the leak of information”.

This followed online reports at the weekend that two people with close links to Mr Brown – former Manukau City Council chief executive Leigh Auton and former Manukau deputy mayor Gary Troup – would be appointed to CCO boards on Thursday.

The mayoral source refused to name the member of the CCO strategy and appointments subcommittee suspected of leaking the information.

What a dick. Conducting a witch-hunt, that just proves that he was manipulating a process that should be public. The thing is Len Brown wants to keep these meetings secret yet he ordered the CCOs to do exactly the opposite.

Yesterday, a spokesman for Mr Brown said the mayor had made his position quite clear.

“It’s all down there in black and white. Wherever possible he wants CCOs to hold meetings in public and agendas of meetings to be published.”

Is this the “straight answers always with a limits” that Len Brown speaks of? Transparency clearly is “not a perfect thing.

What is abundantly clear now is that Len Brown is picking up from where he left off with dodgy behaviour, getting people to cover for him and providing jobs for mates. By conducting a witch-hunt he simply confirms that there is things that need the disinfectant of sunshine.

Len Brown campaigned on honesty and transparency and less than one month into the job he is proving he is neither.

Why the change of heart Leigh?

Veteran trougher Leigh Auton said this back in June this year;

“I’ve chosen not to apply for any of the positions. For me that’s a big decision,” he says. “I’ve been 32 years in Manukau City and another three years before that at Waitemata.

“The time’s right for me to go. I spent a lot of time last year working my way through that. I’m still a couple of years shy of 60 and if I want to set up my own business, it’s the right time to do it.”

Why the change of heart? No clients for his new business? Nobody wants a trougher and a liar?

No wonder Len Brown is trying to find a job for his old mate and protector of secrets.

One has to wonder why though, that Len brown is trying to have these appointments conducted in secret?

Is this part of his promise to always front up”… to give us “the straight answers, always with a limit.”

What this blogger wants to know is who else in Len Browns support team, donors and campaign team have been promised jobs? What other interesting names are going to creep out of the woodwork in coming weeks? And how does Len Brown reconcile these appointments with his claim to have stood for office to be the Mayor for ALL of Auckland, and not just his lefty mates and funders.

The pay off for his silence

Leigh Auton is set to get his pay off for his obfuscation and delaying tactics over the still secret Volare dinner.

The boss of Auckland mayor Len Brown’s former council looks set to get a top position in the new Super City council.

Leigh Auton, who received a $171,700 redundancy cheque when he left Manukau City Council in October as chief executive, decided not to apply for a job at the Auckland Council, saying he would instead setup a consultancy business.

In December last year he formed Auton and Associates Ltd which he runs from his Manukau home.

But now Fairfax can reveal Auton could be appointed director of the Property Council Controlled Organisation (CCO).

At the CCO appointments committee next Thursday the $35,000 appointment will be debated and voted on. It is understood Brown wants Auton in the job.

Auckland Council insiders have said the agenda item will be held behind closed doors during a confidential segment of the meeting.

This man has no place on a CCO. Like Len Brown he has truth issues. He ran interference and was still running interference for Len Brown right up until the polls closed by refusing to answer questions put to him by the Ombudsmen’s Office over the still secret Volare dinner. Leigh Auton and Len Brown were prepared to die in a ditch over Volare and now the pay off for Auton’s tricky behaviour seems to be a cushy board placement to augment his 6 figure pay out for finishing his contract.

There is no way he should be in consideration and there is no way that the decision to appoint him should be behind closed doors. What has happened to Len’s promises of open-ness and transparency that he campaigned on?

Len’s other pal in line for CCO jobs, Gary Troup, is also one of those enjoyed a joint birthday lunch paid for by Manukau City ratepayers to the tune of $244. Oh what a nice cosy coincidence.

Len Brown campaigned on opening the books, yet he stills maintains his silence over the last set of books he maintained along with Leigh Auton.

Not as deflated as the Clown I bet

Poor old George Wood is “deflated” at his crap job handed out by Railway Len.

The Super City is only 10 days old, but councillor George Wood has spat the dummy about the relatively minor job given to him by Mayor Len Brown.

The former North Shore Mayor and senior policeman said he was “somewhat deflated” to be told by Mr Brown he would chair the community safety forum when he wanted a public transport role.

He wondered if he was being sidelined for going public on the “crummy levels of public transport” in Otara – launching pad for the political career of Mr Brown. the the former Manukau Mayor.

In February, Mr Wood compared the Otara bus station with a prison exercise yard and hoped it was not the standard of community facility that Mr Brown intended for the rest of Auckland.

“It worries me what could happen if the Manukau standards of mediocrity were replicated across the rest of the region,” Mr Wood said.

Harden up George, it could be worse, you could be on permanent gardening leave, issuing press releases and Facebooking at ll hours of the night and still calling yourself Mayor despite the election being over for more than a month. Now that would be deflating.

I just bet he is changing his name by deed poll to Mayor Andrew Williams. it remind me though, I wonder if the mayor car , robes and chains have been handed back yet?

Mayor Andrew Williams - still mayor more than a month after the election?

Mayor Andrew Williams? - still mayor more than a month after the election

Why won't Len tell us the truth?

Jonathan Marshall has been following up his complaint to the Ombudsmen after the Manukau City Council refused to release details of the now infamous Volare dinner, as required by the counicl’s own regulation and also as required by law under the LGOIMA.

Len Brown tells us in his extensive television ad campaign that he will open the books of the new city. That promise rings very hollow indeed when we read of his and his Chief Executive’s attempts to cover up a $810.00 council funded dinner.

Secret details of an $810 dinner Manukau mayor Len Brown charged to his council credit card are unlikely to be revealed before this weekend’s local body election, the Ombudsman says.

The south Auckland mayor, who is predicted to win the top job of the new Auckland Council on Saturday, came under intense scrutiny earlier this year after refusing to say who he took to a September 2009 dinner, costing $810.

Brown was asked by a number of media outlets who he took to the dinner, which took place in the same week as his birthday. He refused all requests.

In what was possibly the most memorable part of this year’s local body election campaign, Brown gave an emotional and passionate address to his council colleagues about the dinner. He punched his head and chest and said he would “never” reveal who attended.

“Will I give you the names? Never. I want to tell you that, I feel so intensely strong about this.”

He will open the books on the new city but actively work to prevent his old books ever being released. Dishonest is the word that immediately springs to mind.

The evening was held at south Auckland’s Volare Italian restaurant and featured Australian-based professional tenor Geoffrey Knight, aged in his forties.

Brown told Breakfast co-host Paul Henry the dinner was “a totally appropriate occasion. It was fundraiser in support of a young singing artist in our community…a fundraiser for one of our excellent young musical talents.”

So he will open the books and believes that transparency is a “not a perfect thing“. Looks like the truth isn’t a perfect thing either. Bottom line is Len Brown has never told the truth about that dinner, and when cornered he went all slappy onus.

The worst aspect of all this is the active obfuscation by a paid employee of the City Council, a paid employee who was recompensed handsomely, got a massive payout for just doing his job (or not in this case) and even had a park named after him. Leigh Auton has constantly run interference on behalf of Len Brown throughout this and we can certainly expect these sorts of tactics from Len Brown to continue i, god forbid, he wins the mayoralty.

This week commissioner Marie Shroff asked a set of questions of Manukau City Council about the dinner.

She wanted to know “whether the attendees knew they were accompanying Brown in his capacity as mayor” and “did they know the dinner was being charged to his mayoral credit card”.

Two simple questions, eight people to ask, and two of them were Len Brown and his missus. Eight people, required to say yes or no, twice. It should take all of a couple of hours to sort out. Why no answer? The only supposition can be corruption. Why won’t they answer these two simple questions.

Leigh Auton fought like hell to keep his massive 6 figure payout secret, now he is still fighting like hell to keep details required by law and council rules for a $810 dinner secret.

One must presume that this is a secret that could very well seriously affect Brown’s credibility for them all to die in the ditch defending it.

It is a travesty that Len Brown, his Labour backers and city officials can’t be trusted to tell us the truth, or to follow the law. What will be more of a travesty is Len Brown bringing these appallingly low standards of personal integrity to  the new City.

Len Brown admits defeat

Len Brown has all but admitted defeat;

The mayor reckons he’ll need a record 55 percent voter turnout to win the Auckland Council’s top job.

There hasn’t been a council turn out even approaching 50% let alone 55% in Manukau City, ever since 1989.

1989 – 41-50% turnout

1992 – less than 40%

1995 – less than 40%

1998 – less than 40%

2001 – less than 40%

2004 – less than 40%

2007 – less than 40%

And the statistics are worse for Mayoral turnout. If Len Brown is hoping “southside” is going to get him home then he and his Labour Party handlers are deluded. People don’t change the habit of a life time and Len Brown is about as exciting as pavement sick so unlikely to get them off their couches.

Most in South Auckland can barely make rent, filling out a complex (for them) voting paper, folding it back up the way it came and putting it the envelope with the address facing out and then having to remember to go to a post box, most of which have been set fire to sometime in the past, is just stretching believability. You can call me whatever nasty name you want but that is the cold hard truth of the matter.

The Super City demographics from Wellsford to Pukekohe simply means that the liberal elite of Ponsonby, the pinko media illuminati, and indentured poor can’t influence the mayoralty, especially with a lacklustre candidate with a dodgy ticker prone to face slapping when under pressure.

You know too that they have had it when privately the pinkos tell you they don’t think Brown can win.

Even some of the usual lefty luminaries are saying Brown doesn’t deserve any vote, much less his hangers on.

A big fat cheque and a park named after him

Len Brown’s patsy CEO, Leigh Auton, the man who helped cover up Len’s expense scandal, the man who billed his own private expenses to the council credit card too, and who still refuses to release information requested under the LGOIMA, and the man rumoured to be paid a rather large golden parachute (a six figure sum) also gets a park named after him.

Manukau City Council’s chief executive will get a top honour – having a park named after him – despite losing his job to the Super City.

Leigh Auton has worked in various roles for the council, including as a town planner and in management, for 32 years.

For the past four years he has been the chief executive, but will lose that role with the advent of the Super City.

The Leigh Auton Reserve will be at the headland at Spinnaker Bay, in Beachlands.

He got a park named after him for doing his job! A job he received more than $400,000 per annum for! A park!

This is an outrage. He gets a park named after him for doing his bloody job, a job he was exceedingly well paid for.

One wonders just what his fat farewell cheque is written out for? Auckland City has released the details of the exit package of their CEO, will Len Brown be so transparent?

That transparency feeling, but with limits

Len Brown is on record as saying he will front up.

“I will always front up. I will give you the straight answers, always with a limit.”

Unfortunately he added that rider, always with a limit. He is also on record with his beliefs about transparency.

“I clearly don’t give a damn about this stuff.”

“It’s critical for me as a point of basic principle as a leader and mayor of the city.

“I sit in this room. I don’t tell anybody I am having an interview with you today. It is between you and me. It is totally confidential.”

He said there was no requirement for him to disclose who he spent council money on.

“Transparency is not a perfect thing,”

Actually he is dead wrong on that point, he does have to disclose who he spent money on, so that also makes him a liar. The fact that he hasn’t makes him a liar who hides things. Transparency is not a perfect thing, indeed.

So, bearing those quotes in mind, one has to wonder now just exactly what the position is with the golden hand-shake of his lickspittle CEO, the guy who ran interference for Len over his expenses.

The Auditor-General has been called in to investigate lucrative golden handshakes being awarded to the chief executives of seven Auckland councils which are expected to cost ratepayers millions of dollars.

The Herald on Sunday has been told council bosses from Rodney to Franklin will receive redundancy packages with a combined cost of about $2.5 million.

The Auditor-General still hasn’t ruled on whether or not Len Brown has to tell the truth about his dinner at Volare. So I won;t be expecting any information to be forthcoming any time soon.

We do know that one council is squeaky clean though. Auckland City. We know this because Mayor John Banks does believe in transparency and transparency without limits.

Auckland City mayor John Banks has released the severance package of his chief executive David Rankin, and said there were no golden handshakes given to him by Auckland City Council. He called on other councils to do the same.

“Rankin will be paid an additional $30,000 because he has stayed on past his contractual arrangement. We didn’t want him to leave halfway through the year.

“Whereas the CEO of Manukau City has received a huge exit package, which has been kept secret as we can clearly understand it would.

“Ask Len Brown to tell you how much some of the poorest people in New Zealand have had to pay the CEO in golden handshake and golden exit packages.”

I’m pleased to see that Phil Twyford has been attempting to hold the councils to account.

Twyford had sent requests to all councils in Auckland under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act asking for the redundancy packages of executives.

Good on Phil Twyford, I suppose not having a seat to campaign for helps hugely time-wise. Though he seems a little confused as to who is responsible for holding the information, trying to pin the blame on Rodney Hide. Perhaps he should look a little closer to home politically, and ask Len Brown why he keeps secrets so much. Perhaps while he is at it he could also ask Len Brown just exactly who he was at dinner with at Volare. I mean he has been asked by LGOIMA and he refused, he is required by council rules to disclose and he refused.

I still can’t believe that Len Brown is running ads about opening the books when the books of his own council remain firmly shut to public scrutiny.

It seems we are seeing those limits that Len Brown talks about when he talks about transparency.