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What next for the Auckland Council and its Mayor

By David Thornton

What next for the Auckland Council and its Mayor

The release of the EY report and the subsequent media response must surely drive the twenty elected Auckland Councillors into taking action to restore credibility and respectability to the city’s governance.

The fact must surely be recognised that Mayor Brown, having acknowledged his personal failing, now no longer has the respect of most Aucklanders and cannot therefore fulfil his role as the city’s First Citizen.

Whenever he appears in public in the future the spectre of his behaviour will hang like a dark shadow over that event.

Since the election Len Brown has been noticeably absent from many events he has been invited to, or which it could be expected the mayor of the country’s biggest city would attend.

Various senior councillors have ‘stood in’ for Mayor Brown at many of these events.

He can no longer do the job he was elected to do. The people do not trust him.

The EY report was dissected by Fran O'Sullivan in the NZ Herald which showed that there has in fact been some misuse of ratepayer’s money, plus a failure to correctly reimburse council [ratepayer] funds for personal use of his council-supplied phone. {A potentially sackable offence in some companies]

The EY report was limited and did not address the main public concern about the mayor’s behaviour, including the breaches of the ethical principles in the Code of Conduct.

Mayor Brown’s conduct in the two-year Chuang affair has clearly breached the council’s Code of Conduct.

The Local Government ACT [LGA} states unequivocaly “a member of a local authority must comply with the code of conduct of that local authority”

The LGA also states “a local authority should ensure that the role of democratic governance of the community, and the expected conduct of elected members, is clear and understood by elected members and the community”

The objective of the code is to enhance: -
the effectiveness of the Auckland Council in meeting its statutory responsibilities for good local government;
the credibility and accountability of the Council within its community; and
mutual trust, respect and tolerance between all elected members and between elected members and management.

The Key principles of the Code of Conduct which have been breached by the Mayor.

5.2 Members have a duty to act honestly and with integrity at all times.

5.3 They must not act in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their families, friends or business interests.

5.9 Members should uphold the law and, on all occasions, act in accordance with the trust the public places in them.

5.11 Members should promote and support these principles by example.
10.11 Register of Interests
· (10) Travel costs paid by third parties.
· (11) Gifts received (including hospitality) over $300.

The role of the Mayor is also set out in the Code of Conduct – it is;-

promoting a vision for Auckland; providing leadership to achieve the vision; leading the development of council plans, policies and budgets and ensuring effective engagement between Auckland Council and the people of Auckland.

How can the Mayor engage effectively with the people of Auckland?

They no longer trust him, nor do they respect him – and, despite his claims of support from the public, an on-line poll is running at 72% wanting the mayor to go.

The Council needs a leadership with which the community can communicate, and for which it has respect.

The city itself has been brought into disrepute by the mayor’s actions.

Councillors can no longer sit idly by and wait for the mayor’s next move. Councillors must lead the way forward.

Councillors now have a duty to act in relation to breaches of the Code of Conduct.

The Code itself states

Where there are no statutory provisions, the governing body or local board may take the following action:
removal of the elected member from representative type bodies;
dismissal of the elected member from a position as Chair or Deputy Chair of a committee.

A decision to apply one or more of these actions requires a resolution to that effect.

Councillors face an unprecedented problem which requires an innovative solution.

Should the mayor resign?

Would a mayoral by-election, at the beginning of a general election campaign, be a good way forward for Auckland.

Such a by-election, involving a third of the nation’s population, would create a battle-field of competing ideologies between the political parties and would be a point-scoring bonanza for parliamentary candidates in which the good governance of the city would be the last consideration.

No. It would not be in Auckland’s best interest that the mayor should resign at this time.

What is the alternative and what can the councillors do?

In addition to the public’s rejection of the mayor, there is clearly discomfort in relationships between councillors and the mayor.

The mayor needs to be side-lined.

I suggest that the Councillors demand from the Mayor that he -

· Hands all public Civic duties over to senior councillors who will carry them out on behalf of the Council.
· Allows the Council as a whole to choose a deputy Mayor and appoint/ change Chairs and deputies of Committees

Senior Council chairs would together form a joint leadership of the Governing Body.

The Council already has the power to establish committees.

I wonder how many councillors have the fortitude to take such steps?

Whatever they do or don’t – their own standing in their communities will be affected by how they respond to the current situation.


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