Surrounded by his supportive family, Len Brown was jubilant in victory after winning his second term as mayor of Auckland last Saturday.
Just three days later, that jubilation gave way to despair and anguish, as the 56-year-old was forced to front up on national television and admit a two-year affair with a woman 24 years his junior.
Bevan Chuang worked for Auckland’s Ethnic People’s Advisory Panel – and has a criminal conviction for logging into a former boss’ emails.
Now, with an independent inquiry in place to see whether the mayor’s affair breached the council’s code of conduct and conflict of interest policies, his career – and his marriage – are at crisis point.
“I have caused my wife and my children harm and shame and humiliation… I clearly have a challenge within my family and it is there where I have failed dismally,” Len said on TV3 current affairs programme Campbell Live last Tuesday.
The mayor’s confession came just hours after news of the affair broke, with Bevan (32) signing an affidavit that contains extraordinary details, including:
• Unprotected sex with the mayor in his private council office.
• Being caught naked in the Auckland Town Hall’s Ngati Whatua room – where they were found by a security guard shortly after having sex.
• The mayor bought Bevan lingerie from Bras N Things, and called off the relationship at an Esquires coffee house.
Len’s admission on live television – made at the same time he insisted that he had no intention of voluntarily standing down as mayor – was a far cry from the happy scene he and his family had presented that weekend. The gigantic smiles on the faces of his wife, lawyer Shan Inglis (51), and his three beautiful daughters, Sam (24), Olivia (16) and Victoria (13), showed they adore their father and husband.
The close-knit clan has overcome many hardships – Len suffered a serious heart attack in 2008, and Shan survived throat cancer two years later. But nothing could prepare them for the scandal that has been brewing for the last two years.
More allegations have been coming to light almost daily, including claims he provided a reference for Bevan to get a job at the council-run Auckland Art Gallery, and Bevan’s criminal conviction for logging into the museum’s internal email system after being made redundant in 2008. But despite his behaviour, Len’s daughters say they are standing by him more than ever before.
“We are proud of the job he has done and continue to support him,” Len’s daughter Sam wrote to the New Zealand Herald on behalf of her siblings. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone… We are going through a challenging time, but continue to see the great work he has done and are so proud to call him our dad.”
In November 2011, the Weekly visited Len and Shan at their South Auckland home. The couple, who had been married for 20 years, met when they worked together as lawyers, and clearly adored each other’s company, hugging as they posed for our photoshoot.
“We tend to lead quite a structured life,” Shan then told the Weekly. “With three daughters, it’s probably been the only way to survive over the years.”
In 2010, Len revealed he didn’t think he’d be a successful mayor without Shan’s support. “My whole political career has been with her agreement – and without it, we don’t do it.”
Shan added, “Politics is his passion, he loves the people and there’s absolutely no reason why he wouldn’t continue with that. I know that I have his love and support and I believe in what he does.”
But since the affair became public knowledge last week, Len has kept a very low profile, even pulling out of the Prime Minister’s Olympic Gala Dinner in Auckland, last Thursday.
Bevan has gone into hiding, after parting ways from the team involved in breaking her story, but put a message on her Facebook page saying, “Thank you to my family and friends who have been so supportive of me over the
last few days… I deeply regret what has happened recently. I have been foolish, but I feel used, abused and manipulated.”
Bevan says that she first met the mayor in May 2011 at a council function and initially found him “pleasant and courteous”.
In the following weeks, according to the affidavit, Len frequently texted and called the Hong Kong-born woman, complimenting her on her appearance, before eventually making physical advances.
While Bevan clearly feels cornered by going into hiding, the aspiring politician is no stranger to publicity. She has been a restaurant reviewer, ran and failed to gain a seat at the recent Auckland local board elections, and appeared in a national newspaper looking for a sperm donor to father a child, so she could have a “dragon baby” – a child born in the Chinese year of the dragon.
As the story continues to unfold, it remains to be seen whether Len’s professional reputation will survive.
The day he won the mayoralty, his family was unified. Now, he is hoping their support will continue, as he faces his biggest challenge yet.