Lengate update

The Herald reports:

John Palino met Len Brown’s former mistress for a late-night discussion in a Mission Bay car park the night after the mayoral election and just two days before the affair was made public.

Bevan Chuang claims Mr Palino’s camp raised the possibility that Mr Brown could be shamed into resigning the mayoralty.

When news of the scandal broke on Tuesday, Mr Palino denied any knowledge of the affair. But he met Ms Chuang on Sunday, October 13 – the day after the election.

The meeting, arranged by text message, happened shortly before 10pm in the carpark across from the Berkeley Cinema.

Ms Chuang told the Weekend Herald the meeting was to discuss whether Mr Brown might resign over the affair.

Last night, Mr Palino’s campaign manager, John Slater, confirmed a meeting had taken place, but said it was just a “general chit-chat”.

However, Ms Chuang claims she and Mr Palino discussed revealing to Mr Brown information about the affair and whether he might resign, claiming poor health. (He suffered a major heart attack in May 2008.) …

Mr Palino told Ms Chuang he did not believe a story would be published, she claimed.

She said they parted ways at around 11.30pm.

“John Palino and I walked towards his car and [he] indicated that we cannot be seen together,” she said.

In a statement to the Weekend Herald, the 32-year-old said she had met Mr Palino several times. They also met at the Espresso Workshop in Epsom on May 15 and at his campaign office in Ponsonby two weeks later.

Mr Palino has previously confirmed he met Ms Chuang during the election campaign, but when asked on Tuesday what he knew about the affair, he said he had no knowledge of it and that he did not know who was involved.

However, in her statement, Ms Chuang said that last Sunday afternoon, Mr Palino called her from a phone belonging to his fiancee, Rose Li, to ask if Ms Chuang was OK.

Later that afternoon, he sent a series of texts from his own phone to organise the meeting.

This meeting took place after the election, so Mr Palino wasn’t a potential beneficiary of affair (except that if Brown resigns he could stand again, but I suspect there would be many more candidates in a field without Brown), but his actions are extremely politically naive.

If I was a candidate for office, and someone who claimed to have an affair with my opponent wanted to meet me, I’d run screaming 100 miles in the other direction. No good can come of such a meeting, and in this case no good has come from it.

And asking to meet up, as reported, is even worse error of judgement.

This affair is damaging most (not all) of the people involved in it.

Mr Brown also denied claims by Ms Chuang that some hotels rooms he booked for the pair were offered free of charge.

In a written statement to the Weekend Herald, the mayor’s head of communications, Dan Lambert, said: “He was not offered, or has accepted, free hotel stays in connection to the relationship and paid the standard rate out of his own pocket.

“Any expenses he incurred in connection with this relationship, he has paid for out of his own pocket.”

One accepts their word of course. Having said that, Chuang was pretty specific and I don’t think she was saying he got freebies to damage him – she was trying to defend him against suggestions the Council may have paid. What would settle the matter is a denial from the hotels conerned.

In some good news from Brown, a scientific poll shows support for him not resigning:

The first scientific poll since details of the affair were revealed on Tuesday by his 32-year-old former mistress Bevan Chuang show 51 per cent of Aucklanders think Mr Brown should continue being the mayor and 39.5 per cent think he should resign.

Among those who voted for the 57-year-old Mr Brown at last Saturday’s election, just under 70 per cent said they would vote for him again if another election was held.

Nandan Modak, whose DigiPoll company conducted the survey, said the trend showed he would still be returned as Mayor of Auckland if a fresh election was held tomorrow.

In that event, Mr Brown would have 34 per cent support, his main right wing rival John Palino 19.5 per cent and another candidate 31.7 per cent.

Aucklanders’ view of Mr Brown’s affair was divided, with 62.7 per cent saying it reflected badly on his character.

John Armstrong delivers up a slap though:

His decision – or that of his minders – to make his one and only media appearance on TV3’s Campbell Live was deeply cynical and supremely arrogant. It amounted to another slap in the face for ratepayers who are entitled to expect accountability from their mayor and that he front accordingly.

Campbell did an acceptable job, but seemed more interested in the psychology driving Brown’s lapse of judgment and his fall from grace than the ramifications of the lapse.

Brown’s performance was astonishing. He veered close to blaming the media for being caught with his pants down. It was almost as if he was telling people off for watching. His apology sounded almost like an afterthought.

Confidence that he would get off the hook, rather than being contrite for what he had done, seemed to be the prevailing principle.

That confidence was misplaced. On Thursday, the revelation Brown had helped Chuang get a council-related job saw the moral compass swing 180 degrees against him.

I think that is the one thing which could still trip him up.

Fran O’Sullivan has an idea:

There should be a proper wide-ranging council inquiry into whether Brown abused rules by creating favours for Chuang.

Not simply an inquiry put in place by the chief executive.

Once the inquiry reports, Brown should stand down and call for another election where voters can either accept him or reject him in the knowledge they have all facts on the table.

I think there is a need for a full inquiry – not into the affair, but into any abuse of rules or favours done for Chuang. I don’t think a resignation is automatic –  think it depends on what the inquiry determines.

Brian Edwards writes in the Herald:

Brown’s problem today is perhaps less the disconnect between his previous, largely self-cultivated image of decency and high moral standards and the pictures these detailed revelations paint in the public mind. Such pictures are difficult to erase and they are corrosive.

The mayor’s only option now is to ride it out. Public figures are allowed only one mea culpa. Brown delivered his on Campbell Live and if it wasn’t the whole truth and nothing but the truth, he’s stuck with it. Further revelations, further apologies, further explanations and further endorsements from friends and family can only make things worse.

So my advice would be: keep calm, carry on and say nothing you’re not compelled to say under law. It’s largely out of your hands now.

One thing a life in media teaches you is that with time the public lose interest, their memory fades, mistakes and indiscretions are forgotten and some even forgiven.

The newly re-elected Mayor of Auckland’s best hope is that national amnesia sets in sooner rather than later.

I’m reminded of the old adage – people forgive but don’t forget.

Whale has a q and a here http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2013/10/rapid-fire-qa-len-brown-story#axzz2i6k4QURQ

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