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Calgary councillor sanctioned again after golfing during a council meeting

Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean has been sanctioned again by the city’s integrity commissioner, following an investigation that he participated in a golf tournament during a city council meeting.

According to the integrity commissioner’s report, a complaint was launched following the July 26 council meeting, in which McLean participated remotely.

“The complainant alleged that Coun. McLean appeared to be distracted during the meeting as he did not respond to roll call and failed to vote on a motion,” the report said.

“The complainant alleged his conduct was not in the best interests of the city and showed disrespect for his duties and responsibilities as an elected official.”

The report said McLean’s Microsoft Teams video feed momentarily displayed two people in a moving golf cart, and one of the individuals was wearing a golf glove.

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McLean confirmed to the integrity commissioner that he was participating in the meeting at the Shane Homes Golf Tournament at Heritage Point Golf Course.

“I was invited to the event as councillor for Ward 13, and I felt it was important to attend this event as many of the attendees were Calgary business leaders who were doing development and business in Ward 13,” McLean told the integrity commissioner.

McLean told the integrity commissioner that the event went “longer than expected,” which is why he attended the council meeting remotely when it began at 1 p.m. that day.

The report found he missed a vote during the meeting, but cited technical difficulties and poor cell reception.

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In her findings, city integrity commissioner Ellen-Anne O’Donnell said she didn’t believe that McLean was conducting city business at the golf tournament.

“I do not accept Coun. McLean’s submission that attending the golf tournament was in the realm of conducting City business,” she said in her decision. “This was a leisure/social event that was not as important as attendance and participation at council chambers for the council meeting.”

Following the investigation, McLean was found to be in violation of the city’s council code of conduct.

“This conduct was, on the balance, contrary to the best interests of the city, reflected poorly on the meeting process, and was an example of this councillor putting his own interests ahead of the city’s interests,” O’Donnell wrote in her findings.

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As part of McLean’s sanctions, he must write a letter “accepting responsibility for the poor decision” that includes an apology to city council and administration within the next 30 days.

After the sanctions were levied against him, McLean apologized and described the situation as a distraction.

“I’ve seen other city councillors participate remotely at events. I’m not saying that’s right and I won’t do that again, but I think this a double standard,” McLean said. “I think this is political. I’m very critical sometimes of the mayor and council’s criticisms, and this is maybe a timely distraction.”

He also accused other city councillors for attending the same golf tournament during the meeting, but wouldn’t confirm who was there.

Participating in meetings remotely is not unusual for city councillors after the measure was introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although city council decided to make an attempt to scale back the use of remote attendance at meetings, it’s still commonly used for a variety of reasons.

Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot said he has seen multiple councillors participate remotely in council meetings outside an office environment, but this case comes down to being attentive to what’s happening during the meeting.

“Was his participation undivided? Was his attention undivided? That’s ultimately what’s in question, whether or not he was participating in his fullest ability,” Chabot told reporters.

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Mayor Jyoti Gondek encouraged Calgarians to read the integrity commissioner’s findings, and added the majority of council agreed with the recommendations.”

“Council wholeheartedly supported what (O’Donnell) had to say,” Gondek said. “The recommendations she provided, we took those to heart.”

It’s the second time McLean has faced sanctions from the city’s integrity commissioner, after a complaint was filed because he didn’t wear a mask at an event he hosted in Dec. 2021, violating provincial and municipal health orders at the time.

The councillor also stepped down from his role on several council committees late last year, after videos surfaced allegedly showing him engaging in racist stereotypes and mocking Indigenous people.

Although he was sanctioned for the incident, McLean agreed to sit with a circle of Indigenous elders and report back to city council “with a path forward on restitution.”

McLean said he plans to follow through with the sanctions imposed by the city’s integrity commissioner, but noted he also has lost trust in O’Donnell in her role as integrity commissioner.

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