Brown confirms he acted as a referee for his mistress

October 17th, 2013 at 12:30 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland mayor Len Brown has confirmed he provided a reference for his ex-mistress to help her get a job at the council-run art gallery.

Bevan Chuang – with whom Mr Brown admitted to a two-year affair – received a reference from him when she successfully applied for a job at the gallery in August last year.

This was a year after she and Mr Brown started their affair.

This confirmation adds a new dimension. It is bad judgement to agree to be a referee to anyone you’re in a covert relationship with. But to agree to it, when they are applying for a job at an art gallery that is part of the Council you are the Mayor of is shockingly bad judgement.

Nick Smith resigned for providing a personal letter of support for Bronwyn Pullar, as that had a conflict of interest.  Nick’s letter wasn’t even advocating that she get compensation or a job – just stating how successful she was before her accident.

The mayor’s office is still considering questions from the Herald about how Mr Brown dealt with the issue in terms of the council’s code of conduct and conflict of interest policy.

Badly, I’d say.

I’d say it is inevitable that someone will file a complaint that Mayor Brown has not complied with the Council’s code of conduct and conflict of interest policy.

Providing a reference for your mistress for a job at an organisation that is part of the Auckland Council is incredibly dumb. He should have just said no.

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Lengate gets murkier

October 17th, 2013 at 7:31 am by David Farrar

The Herald has revealed that Bevan Chuang was also in an sporadic intimate relationship with Luigi Wewege, a member of Palino’s campaign team, as well as Len Brown and that Wewege has been pressuring her for months to reveal the affair with Brown.

Wewege has denied a relationship with Chuang, but text messages between then include:

Chuang: I absolutely undoubtedly love you. I just don’t know if you do

Wewege: Not true! You just make me sad sometimes …

Wewege: I literally work 24/7 and something small you know you can do change my life and you won’t do it! :(

All it is … is just a shrewd of evidence and I promise you are fully protected! Baby I have everything set up people are just waiting for you.

So close to less stressed Luigi who can lay in bed all weekend with Bevan!!!!!

Wewege has obviously lied to the media, unless those texts are fabricated – which I doubt.

Wewege is not my favourite person due to how he treated a close friend of mine, whom he also had a relationship with. His pressuring of Chuang reflects badly on him, as does his denial of a relationship with her. 

When news of the scandal broke on Tuesday, Mr Palino said he had no knowledge of the affair or who was involved. Later in the day he issued a statement saying he would not be commenting as it was a personal matter for Len Brown and his family to deal with.

Last night, Mr Palino said he also had no knowledge of an intimate relationship between Mr Wewege and Ms Chuang.

He said Mr Wewege, who mainly handled his social media, advertising and marketing, told him he was friends with Ms Chuang but he did not know about his social life. …

Cameron Slater told the Herald there was “no vast right wing conspiracy” and Ms Chuang approached him with the sex claims. He confirmed he also spoke with Mr Wewege but said he did not tell his father, Palino’s campaign manager John Slater, or Mr Palino.

“She came to me but I don’t know what went on with her and Luigi.”

Mr Slater said he would have published the story during the election if he had proof to back up her claims but Ms Chuang was reluctant to provide it.

“We couldn’t run the story without a sworn affidavit from her and the text messages.”

It’s ironic that Whale Oil demanded a higher level of proof than many in the media would have.

He said “everything went quiet” until he wrote a blog post on Tuesday last week urging readers to vote for Mr Palino with a vague reference to Mr Brown and “Asian beauties”.

“I got a threatening text, [Ms Chuang] got a text, my dad got a text. All from the same number.”

He also believed the website post forced Mr Brown to tell his wife about the affair and the threat convinced Ms Chuang to sign an affidavit and provide the text messages needed to run the story.

It will be interesting to find out who sent that threatening text, and what links (if any) they have to the Mayor. Their actions, caused the story to come out.

The Herald identified Ms Chuang as the mistress and yesterday she said she was sorry for the “hurt and pain” that the saga had caused.

“I was also brought up in a family where my father had an affair and I know how hard this will be for Len’s wife and three girls,” Ms Chuang said.

On that note, daughter Sam Brown, has written a statement on behalf of all three daughters backing her father as Mayor, and saying the issue of fidelity is a personal one. I  think everyone has huge sympathy for the Brown daughters (and wife) as it must be almost beyond comprehension to have to deal with such highly personal revelations.

However debate is starting on whether it is purely a personal matter. The Herald reports:

Questions remain about professional consequences for Mr Brown, after he admitted the affair, which was conducted during office hours and on council property.

Last night, councillor Dick Quax said the mayor’s affair was more than a personal situation.

“This is Len’s second indiscretion. The first one was with credit card spending at Manukau City,” he said. “For me now it comes back to an issue of trust, integrity and personal judgment and I think he has failed on this.”

I imagine media will be putting in LGOIMA requests for any expense claims from the Mayor> if there was any spending of ratepayer money on the affair, then that would become a more serious issue.

Last night, Mr Brown decided not to attend the youth development annual excellence awards at Government House in Auckland.

Understandable, but if the affair revelations means an inability to attend public functions for a period, that also raises issues of is it just personal.

Auckland University employment law expert Bill Hodge told the Herald he recalled a case from the mid-2000s where an employee at the old Auckland City Council was sacked for having sex on the job.

Mr Brown is not an employee of the council, he is an elected office holder so the same rules do not apply to him – making the situation “hypocritical”, said Dr Hodge.

“Prior to Len Brown becoming mayor and prior to becoming a super city [Auckland City Council] fired a security guard for a single incidence of having a sexual activity with another person on the job,” he said. “It’s a disparity of treatment that an employee gets fired, and did in fact, and it’s even [more] ironical that it was a security guard because apparently a security guard did find them [Mr Brown and Ms Chuang] at one point.”

Elected representatives are not employees of course.

Ultimately the public decide whether or not to sack a politician. If Brown stands again at the next election, then they’ll have that chance then to vote him in or out. There is certainly no constitutional reason for him to resign before then. The question is whether he wants to stay on, risking being a lame duck Mayor who will be the butt of jokes for the next three years.

The PM has refused to put the boot in:

Prime Minister John Key has refused to be drawn into the sex scandal surrounding Auckland Mayor Len Brown, saying: “Len’s got a job to do.” …

The Prime Minister did not directly address questions yesterday about whether the under-fire mayor had his unequivocal support, but said: “I intend to work with him as the Mayor of Auckland, and in the end my job is to work with elected officials and get the job done for Auckland.”

He said the publication of Mr Brown’s two-year affair with local board candidate Bevan Chuang was “a matter for Len Brown and his family”.

The sex scandal comes at a time when the National-led Government is working closely with Mr Brown and the Auckland Council to rapidly increase affordable housing in Auckland.

Mr Key did not believe the controversy would destabilise the council.

“From the Government’s point of view, we’re interested in the things that matter to Auckland, and that is certainly housing as is transport, and we’ll be talking to Len about those issues, not other issues.”

That’s a very decent attitude from the Prime Minister and is a huge contrast to how Labour MPs have reacted in similar circumstances. The then Labour leader (Phil Goff) actively pursued Richard Worth over similar allegations and demanded he resign etc because he allegedly had a romantic interest in a Labour Party candidate. Also Labour MPs helped reveal Don Brash’s alleged affair with taunts in the House prior to it being exposed.

For me I don’t think having an affair makes you unfit for office. It is a factor voters may take into account, but as I have said previously politicians are human, and an affair is not automatic grounds for resignation. The fact there were encounters on work property is poor judgement, but again not resignation material.

The issue which is more finely balanced is the fact Chuang was a member of a panel appointed by the Mayor, and any future reappointment was his decision. That is what people call a power imbalance. It would be like (for example) the Tourism Minister having an affair with a Tourism NZ Board member (whom he or she appoints).

UPDATE: The Herald editorial:

Len Brown is not the man Aucklanders thought he was when they elected him their mayor for a second term just last Saturday. His fall from grace has nothing to do with his performance in public life but the distinction between the public and private lives of a public figure is never clear cut. When private behaviour becomes public knowledge it cannot simply be washed from everyone’s mind.

The mayor will wear this embarrassment everywhere he appears and every time he speaks for the city. Eventually he might live it down but probably not – unless he begins to register achievements for Auckland that overshadow the tawdry affair revealed on Tuesday by the woman involved. 

Mr Brown thinks he can live it down and appeals to Aucklanders to retain confidence and trust in him. He is asking a great deal. Readers voting on the Herald website are declaring by a hefty margin they would prefer him to resign. Had those who voted for him in the past few weeks known what they know now, the election could have been very different. …

Some will say that honour requires him to find out, that it is not enough to appeal to Aucklanders to keep faith in him. The decent thing to do would be to resign and offer himself for the voters’ verdict. But that is a lot to ask of him. Decency can go unrecognised, particularly in these circumstances.

That is always an option – resign, but contest a by-election.

UPDATE: Stephen Cook has written at Whale Oil:

The Len Brown sex scandal has taken a dramatic new twist today with revelations the two-timing Auckland mayor used his influence to help the woman he was sleeping with get a job at the council-run art gallery.

Less than 72 hours after going public with details of her torrid two-year affair, 32-year-old Bevan Chuang has revealed Brown acted as a referee for her when she successfully applied for a job at the council-run art gallery back in August last year.  

This was more than a year after she and Brown – who earlier claimed Chuang had never been a council employee when in fact he’d endorsed her for a council job – began the affair that’s now threatening his future as Auckland mayor.

Chuang confirmed that after being shortlisted for the position, the art gallery manager rang Brown, who’d she’d listed as a referee, to ask whether she was a suitable candidate for the job.

Brown said she was, and off the back of that endorsement she was given the job.

“…I remember my manager was excited to be the first person in the gallery to have spoken to him (the mayor),” Chuang said.

If the allegations is correct that Brown acted as a referee for his mistress to get a job at the Council’s art gallery, then that is serious.

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Should Brown stay or go?

October 16th, 2013 at 7:48 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Auckland Mayor Len Brown is refusing to stand down, after confirming that he had a two-year affair with a member of a council advisory panel who is 25 years his junior.

Brown, 57, who is married with three daughters, confirmed yesterday that he had had an affair with Bevan Chuang, 32, who stood unsuccessfully for the Albert-Eden local board in last week’s elections and serves on the council’s Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel.

He said last night that he intended to remain as mayor.

He admitted he had “failed dismally” in his personal life, but insisted: “My record stands in terms of my political service.”

He said he was “very clear” in his commitment to stay as mayor, but was also “listening to the community”. He apologised to Aucklanders, but asked that they “stand by me”.

More like lay with me! :-)

In an interview with TV3’s John Campbell, he said there was “an element of political endeavour” around the timing of the revelations. “In my view there is a clear will or determination to try and force a resignation, and in fact destroy me.”

If that was the case, wouldn’t the story have been published before the election?

Mayoral rival John Minto said a new election should be held. “Not because I’m into prying into people’s personal lives but because it will render him a lame duck mayor, just like Bill Clinton was a lame duck president after the news of his affair came out.”

Minto said there was no way Brown could go to Parliament or host council meetings without being the subject of ridicule. “He will be hopelessly compromised.”

If Brown does resign (after being sworn in) there is a by-election. I wonder if this time Minto would beat Bright?

The Herald reports:

Ms Chuang was unable to be reached for comment last night, but issued a statement through blogger Cam Slater, whose Whale Oil website broke the news of the affair yesterday, to call for Mr Brown’s resignation.

“She believed Brown had only one option left – and that was to resign. He could [no] longer command any respect among those who’d previously issued him with a mandate to lead Auckland. She said as a practising Catholic the hypocrisy of Brown’s conduct was extraordinary.”

Before Ms Chuang’s identity was revealed, Auckland mayoral candidate John Palino said he had no knowledge of the affair or the woman involved. He issued a statement in which he declined to comment and did not return phone calls.

A member of his campaign said he believed Ms Chuang was at the campaign launch.

Ms Chuang told Mr Slater that the allegations against Brown were not politically motivated and that she, and members of her family, voted at this election for Mr Brown.

“If I wanted to bring him down, do you think I’d vote for him? Unlikely. And wouldn’t I have gone public with all this when potentially it could have affected the election result?”

I think Miss Chuang’s motivations are personal, not political. Also I’m sure John Palino would have rather had the story come out before the election – not two weeks after it.

One person has got some facts very wrong, and in fact is defamatory. Chris Ford at Voxy has written:

One element, according to Martyn Bradbury on the Daily Blog, that may have led the Mayor to make such claims is the involvement of Slater’s father, former National Party President John Slater as his rival John Palino’s campaign manager. Talk of the pot calling the kettle black, this is the same John Slater who confessed to having extramarital sex with a woman on the dining table of the London High Commission back in the 1990’s!

Chris Ford has hugely defamed both John Slater and also John Collinge, the person he has confused John Slater with. I’m amazed he has not corrected his post as I am sure he must be aware by now he has the names wrong.

Not only has he defamed John Slater, he has also effectively defamed John Collinge. Collinge has never ever confessed to having sex on the London High Commission table – this has become almost an urban legend. In fact he denies it strongly.

An ex-girlfriend of Collinge’s was unhappy with his new relationship and tried to poison it. She sent his new girlfriend a long letter claiming all sorts of things she had done with Collinge. Her behaviour got so extreme the new girlfriend complained to the Police and the ex-girlfriend was prosecuted in court. The letter was read out in court as evidence for the prosecution. The ex-girlfriend never made those allegations in court (which would have some credibility if she did). She simply wrote a letter to another woman trying to distress her. She has never repeated the claims in court, and Collinge has always denied them totally.

Not relevant to this story, but I thought I might as well set the story right as Ford had referred to it. I look forward to his retraction.

[UPDATE: Chris Ford has corrected his post, and apologized for it, which is good of him]

Mr Slater’s father, John Slater – a former National Party president and president of the Citizens and Ratepayers’ council ticket – acted as Mr Palino’s campaign manager in the election. John Slater said last night he had no knowledge of the affair or the identity of the woman and had no involvement with the story on his son’s website.

People are trying to turn this into a politically motivated story, when I think it is more a “woman scored” motivated story.

Tim Watkin blogs at Pundit:

The initial story on WhaleOil said the affair was with a “council employee”, which is a bit of a stretch. As one of 12 on the Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel she is a representative rather than a staff member. If she had been a staff member the issue would have been much worse for Brown, because employment law would have come down on him like a tonne of bricks.

Even as it stands, his claim that this is an “entirely” private matter is clearly nonsense. It goes to trust. It goes to character. And most of all it goes to his use of power. Or rather, his abuse of power.

Chuang is an adult who chose to have an affair with a married man and then make the details public, so any depiction of her as a victim in this only goes so far. Her own political aspirations, whatever they might have been, are now in tatters. But she’s brought that on herself. Having said that, Brown has clearly abused his power over her and failed in his duty of care as mayor.

Watkin explains:

You only have to look at the FAQs on the Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel’s webpage to see why he has every reason to be worried about how voters might judge him. The page says:

“The Local Government Act required the Mayor of Auckland to appoint the Panelno later than 31 March 2011.The Panel was established and appointed by the Mayor of Auckland following a three-stage selection process…” It goes on:”The Panel operates up to 1 November 2013. However, the decision to continue or re-establish the panel in the same or modified form is within thepower of the Mayor’s authority.”

So Chuang – a perfectly pleasant woman I met earlier this year – was the mayor’s own appointee (even if the recommendations came from a selection committee). Worse, he has the power to re-appoint her – or not – in the next two to three weeks. To compromise himself, Chuang and the Auckland Council this way clearly is unacceptable. 

So her appointment and tenure is at the discretion of the Mayor. I think that makes it arguably worse than if it was a Council employee. Council employees are employed by the Chief Executive and have some protection. Chuang was a direct Mayoral appointee. How can you argue no conflict of interest?

On Campbell Live tonight Brown said he was committed to Auckland and would be staying in the job. He said he’s just won a strong mandate from the people of Auckland, but in a clear out-clause said he would be listening to the people.

There has to be a serious question over that mandate. No-one can confidently argue one way or the other whether he would have won if voters had known about the affair. It certainly would have been closer, but we can’t know what never happened. So he can’t claim any sort of mandate with confidence, leaving him severely compromised in any political endeavour he attempts in the next three years.

One option is to test the mandate. Brown could resign but seek election again which would allow Aucklanders to decide.

I voted for Brown last week, but I don’t know how I would have voted if I had known about this. Brown reasonably told Campbell that people will “judge me in the whole”. And perhaps I would have seen the work achieved and the important goals to come and voted the same way anyway. Perhaps many would have felt that. But I don’t know and Brown can’t know either. This is just one reason why trust and transparency matter so much. Voters have the right to know exactly what – and who – we’re voting for.

And:

But none of that excuses Brown’s betrayal. On Campbell Live he spoke just of the pain caused to his family. It’s understandable that they are his focus, but it was poor that he did not accept responsibility for his mistake and acknowledge that he had failed voters as well. He lied by omission. It took until his final sentence for him to even apologise to us.

I feel incredibly sorry for his wife and daughters. It must be an awful thing to go through, and so publicly. I’m surprised Brown only told then after the election.

We still don’t know about the threatening text sent to Chuang last week from an anonymous number warning her not to talk. That does not reflect well on Brown as well.

The threats are what ensured the story was published. I hope someone can discover whose phone was sending the text messages warning Chaung off talking.

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