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.
Why not you ask? Do they not have to obey the law?
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.”
So Len’s position is clear – he will never ever voluntarily reveal the names, despite ratepayers paying for the dinner. But Manukau City Council knows and they can be ordered to do so under the Official Information Act.
The Ombudsman received a number of complaints about Brown’s refusal to name those who he took to Volare.
It was hoped a decision would be made by the end of this week, but that is now unlikely.
“We are pushing this as fast as we can,” an Ombudsman spokswoman said today.
“There has been huge controversy around this. We understand people wanted to know about this before they voted.”
However the Ombudsman was required, by law, to consult with the Privacy Commissioner before reaching a decision.
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”.
Reasonable questions to ask. And very easy to answer.
But the council’s chief executive Leigh Auton told the Ombudsman there would not be enough time to answer the questions before the election.
Outraegous. My God – this involves around 30 minutes of phone calls, and they have 500 or so staff. One has to suspect this is a deliberate obstruction. Why are they so desperate to not name those who had dinner shouted?Is it because their identities would be in conflict with the reason giving for paying?
Auton was first notified of the complaint against his council in August.
It is understood an urgent telephone conference was being held this afternoon between the Ombudsman and Auton.
Sadly, even if it comes out tomorrow, it will be too late. But the Ombudsman should not reward the Council for stonewalling, and order the names released this week.