A forensic investigation into Ward 2 Coun. Joe Magliocca‘s expenses has found $5,657 in what have been deemed ineligible expenses for hotel rooms, meals, and other costs over the last two years.
The report by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC), which was made public on Tuesday evening, outlined 11 separate occasions in which Magliocca expensed meals and drinks for people who later told investigators they did not meet with the councillor.
The probe also found that Magliocca upgraded his seat to business class or premium on seven flights at a cost of $8,866.78.
The audit recommends the city assess those costs further, as city policy states that economy fares should be booked unless they are unavailable.
“Based on the dates of the advance flight bookings, we question the likelihood that economy fares were not available,” the report said.
The probe into Magliocca’s expenses was prompted by a Postmedia investigation into his expenses at last year’s Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference in Quebec City which showed he expensed more than any other city councillor.
In February, city council voted unanimously for a forensic investigation of Magliocca’s expenses.
The investigation looked into the $36,687 Magliocca expensed between March 2020 and October 2017, the beginning of his current term.
According to the investigation, there were 16 hosting events totalling $1,478.34 in which Magliocca did not provide the names of those in attendance, which is required under city policy. There were another six hosting events at a cost of $770.24 where people listed as attendees confirmed to investigators they weren’t there.
The audit also found three instances in which Magliocca spent more than the allowable limit for hosting events.
When Magliocca was asked by PwC why he didn’t provide the auditors with contact information for certain hosting event attendees, he said he may have misrepresented some attendees and couldn’t remember which ones.
“I felt super bad I misrepresented the people, you know being a politician and I didn’t want to bring anyone under the bus and it was my mistake and I wanted to pay it back and that was it,” Magliocca said, according to the PwC report. “I may have put a wrong name on a receipt or two and I made a mistake and I was not going to drag these guys through, and I paid for it.”
Some of the irregularities in the audit included more than $1,400 in hotel room accommodations, including hotel room upgrades and an extended stay at the 2018 FCM conference in Halifax
According to the report, Magliocca told investigators that the extended stay was to attend a meeting in which the audit later found did not take place.
There were also seven instances at a total cost of $285.73 in which meals were expensed when food was provided, which is against council policy, the report said.
Following the first reports of the irregular expenses, Magliocca voluntarily reimbursed $4,477, and another $1,473 after he reviewed the draft investigation, which is an overpayment of $563.66 to what the auditors found as ineligible expenses.
Magliocca told PwC investigators that he repaid the expenses because he felt what he did was wrong.
“Because I knew it was wrong and from day one. It’s wrong to do that to the constituents or citizens,” Magliocca said in the report. “My policy’s always been to pay for the alcohol ourselves, and if I couldn’t match up the invoices, shame on me. It was all voluntary.”
“This is very troubling,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said prior to the report’s release. “What we have seen is a consistent pattern of behaviour over a long period of time.”
Speaking to Global News Morning Calgary on Thursday, Nenshi said he was surprised by the results of the audit.
“I was shocked by the report. I was shocked by a number of things in this report.”
When asked if Magliocca would be continuing to serve the people of Ward 2, Nenshi said that wasn’t his decision to make.
“He’s an elected official, so that means there is no way to let him go – with one exception, which is the provincial government — the minister of provincial affairs — could get rid of him. That’s very uncommon.”
Magliocca’s office did not respond to Global News’ request for comment following the release of the report.
MRU political scientist Duane Bratt reviewed the report on Wednesday evening and said it outlined two concerns for him: the “frequent need” to upgrade flights and hotel rooms, as well as “carelessness” in missing receipts and misrepresentation of who attended hosting events.
“When you’re in the public eye, when you’re trying to protect taxpayer dollars, and when you look at the reputation that Joe has on city council of being a fiscal hawk, very careful with public dollars, that all seems to be stripped away when you look at his travelling behaviour,” Bratt said.
Councillors discussed the findings of the audit behind closed doors Tuesday and voted to release them to the Calgary Police Service and Alberta’s minister of municipal affairs for further investigation.
Councillors also decided that Magliocca would be publicly reprimanded, and must also make a public apology; his third this year linked to irregularities stemming from his expenses.
Magliocca will also be ordered to attend training on council expense policies and he is banned to expense business travel until the end of his term in late 2021.
“Council is really limited in what sanctions we can do,” Nenshi explained. “These are actually the toughest sanctions I have ever seen council take with someone who has breached the code of conduct – people don’t breach it very often.”
Nenshi noted that the audit didn’t just look at Magliocca’s expense claims, but also those from all other councillors and the mayor himself.
“In looking at all of the councillors’ (expenses) and the mayor’s expenses – with the exception of Coun. Magliocca – the audit only found two expenses where they had questions because the documentation was incorrect, and once they asked the questions they said actually those expenses are fine.
“So the vast majority of the time the vast majority of the councillors are operating in a way that is ethical – which makes Coun. Magliocca’s transgressions so much worse.”