Calgarians won’t have a clearer picture on next steps in the Coun. Joe Magliocca expense review until next week, after councillors spent several hours behind closed doors Wednesday.
Councillors were called to a special meeting Wednesday and after a brief opening by Mayor Naheed Nenshi, they retreated into an in-camera session to discuss the situation.
Earlier this month, the Calgary Herald revealed Coun. Magliocca had billed $6,400 in expenses for a trip to Quebec City to attend the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference. While Magliocca had receipts showing hosting meals with 10 different people, further reporting revealed that none of those people recall meeting with the Ward 2 councillor.
In a further turn of events, the city’s integrity commissioner, Sal LoVecchio, was logged in Magliocca’s expenses as having lunch with the councillor. LoVecchio then recused himself from an investigation into complaints around the FCM expenses, to avoid the appearance of bias.
After the meeting Wednesday Mayor Nenshi spoke with reporters, saying he believed the investigation has already happened, it’s what’s next that they’re focusing on. Nenshi was appointed as the sole spokesperson on this issue for council.
“I feel like the investigation’s kinda been done. I feel like a lot of those questions have been answered. The question then becomes, where do we go from here,” he said.
Public discussion important, said Nenshi
Nenshi said most of the discussion will happen in public in the upcoming city council meeting, with the primary points already covered in a notice of motion signed put forth by councillors last week.
“it’s important to get the motion exactly right,” he said.
“But there’s probably a few things we need to sort out.”
Nenshi said they’ll talk about this process and how the city moves forward with the complaints against Coun. Magliocca. They’ll discuss if the scope should be expanded to include all councillors – though Nenshi said he wasn’t sure there was an appetite to do that. They’ll also look at gaps in their current reporting system, Nenshi said.
Specifically, he pointed out that some small expenses get billed directly to the city and aren’t disclosed. Further, he said they need to ask if it makes sense for a single councillor – in this case, Coun. Ray Jones – to have sole signing authority over council expenses.
“We’re going to use this also as an opportunity to fix any issues in the policy,” Nenshi said.
Nenshi also said that he said LoVecchio rightly recused himself from this investigation and that he’s still the city’s integrity commissioner.
When asked if he felt LoVecchio had erred in having a personal lunch with Coun. Magliocca, Nenshi paused.
“It’s fair to say there are differences of opinion on that issue,” he said.
“Do I believe he would have been biased in his investigation of because of that lunch – no I don’t.”
Nenshi said that no action taken Wednesday against LoVechccio, “and that speaks volumes.”
Magliocca not in council
The mayor said he hadn’t spoken with Coun. Magliocca recently, and the councillor didn’t attend Wednesday’s meeting.
Sources told LiveWire Calgary he was overseas on a holiday. Attempts to contact Coun. Magliocca via cell phone haven’t been returned.
Magliocca said last week in a response to the Calgary Herald that it would be the last he would speak on the matter.
“Unlike most politicians, he’s stuck with that,” said Nenshi.
Full council audit
Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, Coun. Jeff Davison spoke outside council chambers, saying a review of accounting practices is commonplace.
“Now, is a forensic audit necessarily going to for the cost, return the results that are going to be impactful? Probably not. Do we have other mechanisms? Absolutely,” he said.
Davison said by opening it up to all councillors there’s an opportunity to perhaps discover further loopholes than those presenting themselves through just one councillor under review.
“I would expect that anybody who comes back, whether it’s a city audit department, or if we move forward with some kind of other group, that they would be coming back to inform counsel of the process that will be undertaking ,not to seek approval for the process they will be undertaking,” he said.