Under-fire John Palino broke cover yesterday to label claims
he engineered a right-wing conspiracy to unseat Auckland
Mayor Len Brown as absurd.
The losing mayoral candidate admitted meeting Brown's
mistress Bevan Chuang in a Mission Bay carpark the day after
he lost the election.
But Palino denied he was part of a plan to force Brown to
resign, and said he knew only that Chuang had received
"persistent and unwanted propositions from the mayor.
Suggestions now that I, an entrepreneur, TV personality and
political novice, am somehow orchestrating some grand
right-wing conspiracy to unseat Len after the election are so
wrong and so absurd they do not stand up to even the remotest
test of common sense," he said.
Palino said he met Chuang only to discuss threatening text
messages they had both received in the lead-up to the
"To find myself now the principal target of those seeking to
divert attention from Mayor Brown when I am trying to catch
my breath is frustrating and upsetting."
Last night, Chuang told the Herald on Sunday she restated her
claims that Palino knew of the affair.
A spokesman for Chuang said: "Bevan stands by her statement
that Mr Palino met with her, urged her to proceed with the
affidavit against Mr Brown, and promised her that no negative
repercussions would come to her if she did so."
Palino is on holiday in Melbourne with his fiance Rose Li and
did not respond to further requests for comment.
His words came amid a bitter battle yesterday between senior
members of the Palino team and National Party insiders.
Palino's election team was tearing itself apart last night
over who was aware of the Brown affair.
Rob Nesbit-Savage, who left as campaign manager in June, said
he was saddened by Palino's behaviour.
"If it's true, he would have lost all credibility with me.
I'd be quite disgusted. I'm also disappointed that Len seems
to be getting away scot-free and ignored," Nesbit-Savage
National Party campaigner and volunteer Hamish Price said
that he was approached to write Palino's campaign policy, but
it was only four months out from the election and such a big
job that he couldn't have done it as a volunteer.
Price did not rate political strategist Luigi Wewege or
others involved in the Palino campaign.
"People who weren't wanted elsewhere, or had zero campaign
experience. No significant current National Party figures
went near the campaign, as it was generally known to be
However, campaign manager and former National Party president
John Slater hit back and said Palino had been consistent with
what he had said all week.
He said Price was persona non grata after being denied a job
with the Palino team.
Another campaign aide said Palino compared Brown's adultery
to "murder"after news of the affair broke. "I said: 'Did you
say this to try and bring him down? Is that what you're
doing?"' Palino allegedly replied: "Well, all I can say is,
if you heard that somebody murdered somebody, wouldn't you
want to tell other people about it?"
Despite key players describing themselves as National Party
activists, Prime Minister John Key would not be drawn on how
the fiasco reflected on his party.
A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said no one was paid by
the National Party to work on the campaign.
Brown has also taken the weekend off to spend with family -
something he had planned to do long in advance of the
scandal, a spokesman said.
He would not comment on Palino's statement.
Brown plans to resume normal duties this week with a visit to
Three Kings Primary School on Monday.
- John Weekes and Kathryn Powley of the Herald on