Wayne Brown should be sacked | The Jackal

4 Mar 2013

Wayne Brown should be sacked

Yesterday, One News reported:

Mayor Wayne Brown wants more autonomy for the Far North but former Local Government Minister turned mayoral candidate John Carter says what is being proposed amounts to apartheid.

The Far North is new Zealand's largest district with 46 towns, and while some such as Kerikeri are prosperous, others like Kaitaia wracked with poverty.

I'm not sure how the Far North District Council becoming a unitary authority would reduce poverty, and it seems there's some other motive at play here.

The mayor says his house in Auckland is closer to Whangarei than his Far North house but "Whangarei makes an enormous amount of decisions up here which don't work for us."

"We have heaps of opportunities which aren't being taken up largely because the decision making is being based in Whangarei," Brown said.

The proposed new council could mean less red tape, less bureaucracy, greater Maori representation and responsibility for environmental management, drainage and waterways.

It should be said that Wayne Brown is an advocate for the mining industry, so I very much doubt there would be greater "responsibility for environmental management" by giving his council sole responsibility without any proper external oversight.

The red tape Brown is talking about removing is likely there for a good reason, and in my opinion, he simply cannot be trusted with more power. Here's one reason to base such an opinion on...

In February, the Northern Advocate reported:

A former Far North District councillor has asked the Auditor General to investigate what he calls "fraudulent and corrupt practices" by the district's Mayor Wayne Brown.

Johnson Davis alleged that Mr Brown used his position as mayor to promote his own business interests when he requested his council for $3000 to travel to Canada for a mining conference, and has asked the Auditor General to look into the matter.

Mr Brown hit back yesterday, saying the council had decided not to fund the trip.

"I've asked the council in a totally open way. They [council] will have to first agree to my request before complaints can be made," he said.

Wayne Brown is obviously deluded! Under the law you don't have to get away with committing a crime for it to still be a crime. So let's look into the matter of Wayne Browns misconduct...

On 21 February, the council had their monthly meeting. Here's the minutes (PDF):

Prospectors and Developers of Canada Conference

His Worship the Mayor circulated a 2 page statement regarding the process by which the decision had been made in respect of his proposed PDAC trip.

He then asked whether or not the Council would reconsider supporting his trip so he could at least attend as a representative and Mayor of the Far North District. He explained that financial support was no longer being sought as he wished to ensure he was not seen to be receiving a financial contribution.

His Worship the Mayor vacated the chair which was assumed by Cr Knight. It was agreed however that His Worship the Mayor could remain in the room.

Resolved McNally/Radich

THAT Council support his Worship the Mayors attendance at the 2013 PDAC conference in Toronto as the representative of the Far North District
Cr Baker recorded his vote against the motion

His Worship the Mayor abstained from voting.

His Worship the Mayor suggested that the Council could provide a financial contribution as a scholarship for young people to gain the skills for employment in the mining industry. It was suggested that the sum of $6,000 per year for 3 years could be appropriate. Staff advised that it was not appropriate that this matter should be discussed as a late item but it could be placed on the agenda for the next Council meeting.

His Worship the Mayor resumed as Chairman.

Clearly Brown did have an expectation of appreciable financial gain from getting the council to fund a businesses trip to promote an enterprise the mayor had investments in, and he therefore shouldn't have even been speaking at let alone distributing a written statement on the matter at the meeting where the decision was being made.

Here's what the Far North District Council's Standing Orders (PDF) say:

Pecuniary interest

No members may vote or take part in the discussion of any matter at any meeting where they, directly or indirectly, have any pecuniary interest as defined in law, other than an interest in common with the public.

I don't think Brown could effectively argue that he was unaware of the conflict of interest, being that it is so obvious. He's therefore guilty of trying to influence the discussion of an issue at a council meeting he has a pecuniary interest in.

If the law was upheld, Brown would be sacked... A conviction for such a crime also meaning the dishonest mayor wouldn't be able to sit on any committees in the future, which in my opinion would be a good thing.

Councillors last week rejected the request, but not after being torn between wanting to send the best-qualified person, promoting investment in the North and avoiding a conflict of interest, especially as Mr Brown recently set up a prospecting company, Tai Tokerau Minerals, in which he has a 5 per cent stake.

A 5% stake in a business doesn't seem like much, and under the Local Authorities (Members' Interests) Act 1968 (PDF) it isn't enough to create a conflict of interest.

However the fact that Brown is a member of the company he set up creates the conflict of interest, and he's therefore liable under the law for prosecution.

It was revealed Mr Brown had printed a business card, via the council, for the conference that contained his private details.

Mr Davis said business cards issued by the council to staff and councillors strictly controlled what information they should contain.

So Brown was abusing the councils stationary budget to promote his private business interests as well... I wonder what the local ratepayers think about that?

He questioned whether the mayor's request for funding should have even been on the council agenda because having an interest in Tai Tokerau Mining, he said Mr Brown had a clear conflict of interest.

"I believe also that the staff member who wrote the report to council also needs to be held to account as it is my understanding that staff are required to point out any breach or potential breach of the law, council's policies, standing orders, protocols and code of conduct," Mr Davis said.

Davis is correct and it's good to see him trying to hold the council to account for failing to adhere to the law. Without any accountability, ratepayers money will simply be misspent promoting the interests of dishonest councillors, and where's the benefit to the local community in that?