Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown recently expressed shock at the substantial expenditures made by his council on legal firms and consultants, but he has spent over $90,000 in one month on external lawyers in one month, according to reports.
Since October 8, Stuff report that Wayne Brown’s total spend on legal advice has surpassed $300,000, with a significant portion going to Meredith Connell, where Brown’s chief of staff, Max Hardy, is associated.
During a council meeting on July 27, Brown voiced his concerns about the council’s spending with large consultancies and law firms, which had been reported in the media. He requested that councillors to apply a “reasonableness” test when seeking external advice, emphasizing that they are representatives of public funds, and some expenses do not meet the reasonableness standard.
Brown continued to emphasize the need for prudent spending. However, records obtained from the council by showed that in May alone, $91,535 was spent on legal advice for the mayor’s office, primarily with Meredith Connell, an approved law firm by the council.
It appears that much of the advice sought early in Brown’s term focused on the mayor’s powers in dealing with council-controlled agencies, about which he had been highly critical. Some of the initial payments to Meredith Connell were for the time spent by their then-partner Max Hardy in the mayor’s office before officially joining the staff.
The mayor’s office clarified that the $91,535 expenditure included the temporary secondment of a junior Meredith Connell staff member to the office. It covered legal advice on the independent review of the January flood response and transport issues.
After taking office in November, Brown declared that he would utilize the $5.2 million allocated to the mayoral office under Auckland’s amalgamation legislation. In contrast, former Mayor Goff was cautious about spending the money intended for independent research and city development ideas.
Brown acknowledged his responsibility to articulate and promote a vision for Auckland and to provide leadership to achieve the city’s objectives. Despite having a significant agenda, he vowed to handle the funds prudently.
Referring to a $90,000 PWC report in his media column on August 1, Brown emphasized that the spending practices must stop and that its exposure would lead to necessary changes.