Thursday, December 19, 2013

Len Brown's peccadillo


The online Oxford dictionary defines a peccadillo as a 'relatively minor fault or sin" and gives this example 'the sexual peccadilloes of celebrities aren't necessarily news'. 

Well around the espresso machine that's what a lot of people thought at first and they talked emphatically about how Len Brown's private behaviour had nothing to do with his public position as Mayor of the Auckland supercity.  It was a matter for his wife and family, not for us.  His private behaviour was completely separate from his public behaviour.  There was a bit of chuckling and some really good jokes about the Ngati Whatua room profile being raised and a few winks and links to Clinton and Monica.  Yes, we are a first world city with a naughty public leader.  It's all a bit of manly fun and has nothing to do with his performance (ahem) as a mayor.

I dispute that.  Any man who is prepared to successfully and systematically deceive his wife for two years is highly likely to deceive his colleagues and all stakeholders in the Super City including of course, ratepayers.

After extensive media interest there has been an audit by Ernst and Young (EY) who trawled through 10,655 test messages and 3,142 phone calls to find that 1222 texts had been sent to the other party and that 153 calls had been made.  Not exactly a smoking gun given that Ms Chuang was a member of the ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel.  The findings of the expensive EY audit, costing a ball park figure of $100,000 have brought up a short list of hotel room upgrades and a few free hotel rooms.  Only nine nights out of 74 were freebies.  Read the full report here if you like.

Right now His Worship the Mayor is feeling beleaguered and very down in the mouth but according to the New Zealand Herald (NZH) of Monday December 16, 2013 'Mr Brown said he would pay his personal costs for legal advice from Phillip Skelton QC, but would not pay any costs of the review.' Mr Brown also comments in the NZH, "However, I accept that as Mayor I am subject to a higher standard of public accountability, and in this context I should not have accepted the free rooms offered to me, and should have disclosed when I was asked about it in October."  Yes - but you didn't.

The office of the Mayor is a big one and in many ways his team separates him from his council.  Apparently it was designed that way to enable the mayor to make more rapid changes and was seen as being a necessary part of the new strategic structure.  This positioning also makes him isolated and vulnerable.  He is vulnerable, as we have seen, to blackmail and snipes from his detractors.  But the isolation has left him in a bubble where he no longer feels responsible for his actions.  he is almost untouchable and that often makes people feel more powerful than they ought to.

Did he really think he could get away with it?  Was he na├»ve and easily seduced or is it another version of an old, old story?

The review has resolved nothing, his reputation is neither in tatters nor has it been restored.  But is this a man who you can believe, let alone believe in?  It is more than a peccadillo.