Should Brown stay or go?

Stuff reports:

Auckland Mayor 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.


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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