Calgary councillors Jeromy Farkas and Sean Chu are calling for a forensic investigation into Councillor Joe Magliocca’s expenses to be broadened to look at all members of council, including the mayor.
The call came on Tuesday, the same day Mayor Naheed Nenshi set a special council meeting for Wednesday afternoon to discuss the controversy surrounding Magliocca’s spending.
“I’ve heard a lot of my colleagues are quite concerned both about the behaviours of one of our colleagues but also about the overall process,” Nenshi said.
“I want to highlight that we have a very good process, and the fact that we’re having that conversation is evidence of the process working.”
According to Farkas, an all-encompassing audit would promote trust in the city’s representatives.
“Calgarians deserve to trust this council,” Farkas said.
“Council needs to step up and show leadership. We all need to be exposed to an audit and we need to be able to demo to Calgarians we are spending money wisely.”
Integrity commissioner Sal LoVecchio recused himself last week from investigating a formal complaint about Magliocca’s expense claims due to a potential conflict of interest.
Lovecchio said in a public statement on Feb. 11 that he shared a social lunch with Magliocca last summer, which the councillor later expensed to the city without his knowledge.
Following that revelation, Councillor Jyoti Gondek, with the support of seven other colleagues, filed a notice of motion asking for a forensic investigation of Magliocca’s expenses for all of 2019. Magliocca himself supported the motion.
Wednesday’s last-minute meeting is expected to take place behind closed doors with councillors hearing from the integrity commissioner, city manager, city solicitor and ethics adviser.
Nenshi said he hopes that by holding the special meeting, most aspects of the notice of motion will be addressed so it won’t need to be debated.
“We had a gap on Wednesday afternoon. I thought, ‘Let’s just get this done now instead of sticking it in Monday’s council meeting,'” Nenshi said.
Gondek said she’s happy the issue is being brought up sooner.
“It’s extremely urgent,” Gondek said.
“We’ve got a major gap where an integrity commissioner is no longer able to fill the role in terms of an investigation and I appreciate the mayor calling this tomorrow so we can get to this business as quickly as we can.”
There is no dollar figure on how much an independent investigation into Magliocca’s expenses would cost or how much it would cost to audit all council members.
Nenshi said a full-council audit would be costly and he doesn’t think that should be council’s main focus.
“I think it’s important to remember most members of council, the vast, vast majority of council, keep their noses clean and really take care of their expenses very carefully. Certainly, I’ve done so for nine years,” Nenshi said.
“And we don’t want to spend a lot of time and money chasing after nothing. We really should be focused on the activity that is being investigated now.”
— With files from Aurelio Perri