16 Jun 2010

Emotional mayor regrets use of council credit card

8:27 am on 16 June 2010

In an emotional speech to Manukau City Council, mayor Len Brown has apologised for not adhering to council policy, saying that at times he wished he had never accepted the council credit card.

The mayor, who says his first term in office has been a steep learning curve, says he will be calling in the Auditor-General to examine his spending on the card - which he will never use again.

Mr Brown announced the move at a tense council meeting examining how he spent $780, which he described as personal, on the card. The money has been repaid.

The council's director of finance, Dave Foster, was questioned for an hour by councillor Jamie Lee-Ross about his approval of the mayor's expenses.

Mr Forster defended the council system, while admitting that some areas capable of improvement had been uncovered.

Apology accepted after long discussion

Several councillors criticised Mr Brown's use of the credit card for what they call "nickel and dime" purchases such as lunches.

But Mr Brown says he is constantly meeting constituents and has occasionally charged meals with them to the card.

After four hours' discussion of the matter, most councillors accepted his apology and his decision to refer the matter to the Auditor-General. Mr Lee-Ross said it was the right outcome.

Cover-up claim 'malicious nonsense'

On Monday, Mr Brown said a claim that he had tried to cover up details of an $800 dinner bill was malicious nonsense.

In September last year he spent just over $800 on the card at south Auckland restaurant Volare.

It has been reported council staff asked for a new receipt to be made up, leaving out any details of beer or wine.

But the council's chief executive, Leigh Auton, denies that, saying staff asked for a receipt only for GST purposes.

Mr Brown says the spending on a table at a fund-raising dinner was approved by council staff.