Lengate inquiry widens

Bernard Orsman at NZ Herald reports:

An Auckland Council inquiry into mayor ’s extra-marital spending is being widened to look at a reference the mayor provided for his ex-mistress to help her get a job at Auckland Art Gallery.

A council spokesman said the review – announced by chief executive Doug McKay last Thursday – would probe whether Mr Brown breached the council’s code of conduct and conflicts of interest guidelines set down by the Auditor-General.

The review would also look at whether Mr Brown provided other references for his former mistress, Bevan Chuang, the spokesman said.

Decisions on terms of reference for the independent review and who will conduct it are expected to be finalised today or tomorrow.

I think this is appropriate, because it focuses on the conflict of interest – which is a legitimate issue of public concern. I think it actually benefits Len Brown also as the review will allow there to be a conclusion to the story, which otherwise might continue on and on.

John Palino – Mr Brown’s rival at the mayoral election – issued a statement on Saturday confirming he met Ms Chuang for a late-night discussion in a Mission Bay carpark the night after the election and two days before the affair was made public.

He said he met with Ms Chuang – at her request – in relation to threatening text messages the pair had both received from the same number, but did not say what they discussed.

Mr Palino continued to say the first he was aware of the affair was last Tuesday when it was made public.

“Bevan has never disclosed to me the full nature of her relationship with the mayor and only ever indicated she received persistent and unwanted propositions from the mayor,” the statement said.

A reader has pointed out to me that the text messages printed by the Herald appear to back this up. The print edition has more of these than online, and as far as I can see, none of them refer to an affair. It is possible the Herald has some texts (they said they have 90 pages of texts) that they have not printed which do, but I would have assumed they would have included those ones if they had.

As I understand it, those who had knowledge that there had been contact between Brown and Chuang say they were all operating under the assumption that the contact was along the lines of unwanted unsuccessful propositions rather than a consensual consummated affair, and that the fact it was the latter only emerged after the election.

It would be useful to understand if this is in fact the case (I simply do not know). At what stage were people told it was an affair, as opposed to presumed sexual harassment? If there are 90 pages of texts, I would expect at least one of them to refer to it being an affair, if that is what was known.

Graeme Edgeler writes at Public Address:

I have just finished watching Q+A on time delay. In it, both former National Party President Michelle Boag and Unite Union head Matt McCarten made the claim that if Len Brown was to resign before before sworn in for his second term as mayor of Auckland City, that the second-placed candidate would be declared elected and be sworn in.

This is false.

Whatever the reason any New Zealand mayor-elect may not take up office, the result is a by-election. If a mayor (or councillor) leaves office during the term, there is a by-election unless there are less than 12 months to the next full council election.

If a mayor-elect dies, or is disqualified between the vote and the swearing in, there is a by-election. The runner-up can never simply assume the office of mayor. The Local Electoral Act simply does not allow it.

This is as it should be. Incidentally Matt McCarten acknowledges his mistake in the comments.

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