Auckland Councillor Jami-Lee Ross has stated:
The Mayor of Auckland has been called on by one of his councillors to return a $3,375 campaign donation back to Auckland ratepayers.
The call comes after recent media reports of a donation to Mayor Len Brown from the Counties Manukau Pacific Trust. The charitable trust has been largely funded in the past by Manukau City ratepayers and continues to receive a $385,000 operating grant each year.
Auckland Councillor Jami-Lee Ross has written to Mr Brown saying he has a “moral obligation” to return $3,375 back to ratepayers. “This donation is highly questionable and, in my view, should never have been made. …
Mr Ross says the Trust’s connection to the city’s ratepayers is too close for it to have engaged in actively supporting election campaigns.
“There are very strong arguments that the donation is in effect public money, if not by definition, then by perception. The Trust’s own financial statements note that the Trust is considered a Council Controlled Entity.
“I have no doubt that the ratepayers of Manukau City would not have expected an organisation that has benefited so generously from Manukau City Council to be contributing to the election campaigns of political candidates. …
“Len Brown has a moral obligation to return the $3,375 back to the people that fund the Counties Manukau Pacific Trust. Doing so would be seen as testament to his honesty and integrity,” says Mr Ross.
The multiple links between the trust and the campaign, with an exchange of personnel, a probably illegal donation, and subsequent board appointments need investigating.
Also there is need of a culture change at the new Auckland Council for refusing to make available the donation and expenses return, unless you physically visit them. They won’t even allow journalists to take a photocopy.
This reinforces my view that the Electoral Commission should be placed in charge of all local body elections also. They have a good commitment to transparency.