The Brown inquiry

The Herald reports:

An review of any use of council resources by Mayor in his affair with is taking longer than expected.

After the council said the review by Ernst & Young would be reported back to chief executive Doug McKay as “quickly as possible” and in no more than four weeks, the deadline passed yesterday with word it is still several weeks away.

A council spokesman said work on the review was ongoing and thorough and the findings were expected to be published “within weeks”. The original deadline of four calendar weeks was a best guess at the time, the spokesman said.

I think it is better the review is thorough than rushing to meet an artificial deadline.

Last night, Ms Chuang – a member of the council’s Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel – said she had been interviewed for the review.

Mr Brown has admitted providing a reference for Ms Chuang for a job at the council-owned Auckland Art Gallery at the start of their two-year affair, saying it was a fairly typical reference done at a time when he had not known her for long.

The inquiry will I hope test those claims. How many references has he provided in the last three years, and how many were for jobs at Auckland Council or a CCO? And how many of them involved not just a written reference but a verbal reference also.

It is not clear if the inquiry will canvass her claims that some of the hotel rooms he booked for the pair were offered free by hotel managers. Mr Brown has said any expenses he incurred were paid out of his own pocket.

Some people, including activist and mayoral candidate Penny Bright and Herald columnist Fran O’Sullivan, have called for the inquiry to probe the hotel claims.

According to O’Sullivan, undeclared freebies leave any politician open to the suggestion, fair or unfair, by opponents that they have been bought and because of the potential for unconscious bias.

In Mr Brown’s case, Ms Chuang said she was taken to the Langham, Hilton and SkyCity Grand hotels.

The mayor has been a vocal supporter of the SkyCity pokies for convention centre deal.

Chuang was quite certain that they had received freebies, but Brown says they did not. The only way to clear the matter up is for the inquiry to ask the hotels. An alternative could be for Brown to show his bank or credit card statements for the nights they were together.

Considering that his wife could well see any charges for hotel rooms, I would not be surprised if he did accept any freebies.

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