Calgary CFO admits ‘confusion’ over council pay increase; Farkas feels he’s ‘done nothing wrong’

Jeromy Farkas kicked out of Calgary city council meeting
WATCH: Calgary city council voted Coun. Jeromy Farkas out of a meeting for violating the code of conduct on Monday. (Mon, Dec 17)

Confusion at Calgary city hall over how much councillors will be paid in 2019 has one councillor claiming vindication and the mayor saying that same councillor misled the public.

On Thursday, the city’s acting Chief Financial Officer apologized to council members after stating in a council meeting on Monday that councillors were in line for a pay cut.

In an email obtained by Global News, the CFO admits to using average Alberta weekly earnings in calculating the councillors’ projected pay.

READ MORE: Jeromy Farkas kicked out of meeting as Calgary council votes down salary freeze

“However,” acting CFO Carla Male wrote, “my review of relevant documentation indicates that in 2012, council passed a motion that proposed changing the formula to a 12-month average of Average Weekly Earnings. The accompanying report noted that this will sometimes result in a higher amount than the September-to-September number and will sometimes result in a lower amount.”

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“In council’s meeting on Monday we knew it was confusing,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Thursday, “and, in fact, all one had to say if one wanted to make a comment about what happened in that meeting was to say: ‘Gee, this is confusing and council has made a decision that may or may not have been the right decision,’ and that’s totally legit.”

Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas was ejected from the council meeting after posting figures to Facebook that council opposed a pay freeze and were due to take a pay increase. That ran counter to figures that city administration presented to council that said council was going to take a minor pay cut in 2019.

A Facebook post from Coun. Jeromy Farkas showing, on the left, the vote for a Calgary council pay freeze and, on the right, a vote for a council pay cut that never occurred.
A Facebook post from Coun. Jeromy Farkas showing, on the left, the vote for a Calgary council pay freeze and, on the right, a vote for a council pay cut that never occurred.

On Monday, Nenshi accused Farkas of breaching their code of conduct by presenting pay calculations based on old information.

“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 on Monday.

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“So I’ll ask for that retraction without the if, and with an apology.”

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“I’ve been completely reinstated,” Farkas told Danielle Smith on Thursday. “I have not apologized. I have not retracted my statements. And I feel like I have done nothing wrong.”

“When we were debating this topic at council, I did the homework. I did the math. I reached out to the HR professionals and I said, ‘What are we on track for?’ and they were very clear in terms of what the number was: about 2.34 per cent.

“I raised this number and I brought this to council and said, ‘This is the evidence that I have. Why don’t you listen to me? We’re on track for this.’

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“Mistakenly, another number was floated around that was more like a guess. A back-of-the-napkin calculation.

The city’s CFO told council she is seeking assistance in clearing up the matter with the city’s auditor. In the meantime, councillor pay has been frozen and the integrity commissioner has been asked to investigate Farkas’ recent actions.

When asked on Thursday if Farkas should be apologized to, Nenshi wouldn’t back down.

“No, because while the integrity commissioner will make that ruling, fundamentally the problem was not that it was right or not; the problem was that is was misleading.

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“Basically, it implied that the councillors had voted for a 2.3 per cent raise and I bet you not one of the councillors who voted said that that was what they were voting for. And in fact that is what they explicitly said that was not what they were voting for.”

Farkas, too, is unrelenting, saying the allegations against him were untrue.

“Moving forward, my expectation is that city council and administration will do the decent thing, they will do the right thing and they will fully recognize their error.”

–with files from Aurelio Perri and Heide Pearson