All of Calgary’s city councillors, save for Jeromy Farkas himself, voted in favour of kicking Farkas out of Monday’s meeting after it was determined the councillor had violated the code of conduct.
The situation started when Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was made aware of a Facebook post Farkas made Monday afternoon suggesting council was due for a 2.3 per cent pay increase. Farkas told council he was citing an email sent on Nov. 21 from the human resources leader of compensation.
“Council is due for an estimated 2.3 per cent pay increase in 2019,” the post read. It was accompanied by photos of papers showing two vote tallies.
“I proposed a five per cent reduction, which failed because no council member seconded it. The pay freeze was also rejected.”
The post came after councillors had a lengthy debate about the salary change where new numbers were presented showing that instead of an increase, councillors would be seeing a decrease of 0.2 per cent. A councillor’s pay is based on the average Alberta weekly earnings.
Farkas announced a motion last month to have the councillors’ salaries frozen after a report showed a bleak future for Alberta fiscally.
Councillor Ward Sutherland had also put forward a similar notice of motion — which was the one debated on Monday — that also proposed a wage freeze.
Because councillors will see a pay decrease this year, they voted to reject the freeze as well as Farkas’ motion to cut wages by five per cent.
“My sense is that what we have here is, in this Facebook post, is not just spin — it is, in fact, untrue,” Nenshi said.
“As such, I think that we have a… violation of the code of conduct here… If I detect a code of conduct violation, I’m duty-bound to report that to the integrity commissioner and ask for a ruling.”
Nenshi went on to say that as the chair, he had the ability to “enforce rules and make rulings” and if Farkas wasn’t compliant, he could accept a motion to have him removed from the meeting for either the remainder of the meeting or until Farkas made an apology acceptable to the entire meeting. He then gave Farkas two opportunities to retract his statement and apologize.
“Frankly, to rely on the old information when you know, as it says in the code of conduct as any reasonable Calgarian would, that there is newer information is dishonest and irresponsible,” Nenshi said. “So I’ll ask for that retraction without the if, and with an apology.”
Farkas, however, said the numbers released Monday were conjecture and without the finalized numbers, he was standing by his statement.
Nenshi said that wasn’t true or good enough and accepted a motion from Councillor Dianne Colley-Urquhart, which was seconded by Councillor Evan Woolley, to have him kicked out.
Once the motion had passed 14-1, Nenshi moved the meeting back behind closed doors and Farkas didn’t join.
In a series of tweets, Farkas called the situation an over-reaction and said the public had a right to know the voting record. He said he was “standing by the official numbers I was given by human resources and I’m happy to post the updated information when we get it.”
He said council heard they won’t have the exact number of the salary change until Dec. 20 and said he’d asked to delay the vote on the salary changes.
Farkas will be welcomed back in the next council meeting regardless of if he makes an apology, Nenshi said.
The current base salary for Calgary councillors is $113,400, according to Sutherland’s notice of motion.