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Coun. Magliocca expense review begins; auditor to determine if issue is ‘isolated’

The expenses of Ward 2 Coun. Joe Magliocca will undergo a forensic investigation overseen by Calgary’s City Auditor’s Office, and all city council expenses will also be reviewed.  

The auditor’s office will also look at ways to verify expenses at the ward level and whether there are systemic issues with reporting expenses.

This stems from Magliocca’s expense irregularities after the 2019 trip to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Quebec City.

Earlier Monday, Magliocca issued a statement on a review into his expenses, saying he fully supports “another look into my expenses to ensure that they are in line with Council policy…”

“I fully understand the concern over the amount of hosting expenses I incurred during the FCM convention,” Magliocca’s statement read.

“Taxpayers deserve better and I am deeply sorry. I have since personally paid back all alcohol and hosting expense that I incurred during this convention.”

Magliocca also posted detailed expenses from 2017 and 2018 on his website.

Magliocca expenses: Governance and oversight discussed

Thirteen councillors and the mayor signed on to the notice of motion and much of the discussion circled around the need for a review of the governance and oversight and the specifics of the investigation.  

The notice of motion received unanimous approval in council.

Coun. Druh Farrell wanted to amend the motion to review Magliocca’s expenses back to the start of his tenure on council, which goes back to his election in 2014. The main motion asked for the review back to 2017.

That amendment was ultimately held off.

Farrell also said the action taken once the review is complete should reflect that of the entire contingent of City of Calgary employees. Especially given what they’re asking city employees to endure during recent budget cuts.

“It’s important that we lead by example,” she said.

“It’s also important that we have similar consistency of our code of conduct that we expect from our city employees.”

Farrell heard earlier from city manager David Duckworth that action taken against city employees with expense discrepancies could result in anything from suspension to termination.

Expense review would focus on three areas – Ward 2, council and governance/oversight

City auditor Kathy Palmer told council that the forensic investigation will be purpose driven.

“The intent of this investigation is really to understand whether this is an isolated occurrence, or whether there are more systemic factors that need to be identified and brought forward to Council for decisions to be made,” Palmer said.

She said they would look at discretionary expenses from councillors versus those expenses that are required to run their offices.

The sequence of events would loosely follow the notice of motion; they would review the Ward 2 expenses then the council expenses to see if there are any other issues or loopholes that needed to be addressed.

“I understand the rationale for looking at all council expenses, because that will provide more input on where the areas are, from a process, that may require further clarification, or further support in order to do the day-to day-regular review council expenses more effectively,” Palmer said.

Following that would be working with the city manager and Chief Financial Officers office on amendments to council policy. That would include budget management, oversight and governance on council expenses. 

Timeline for expense review

Mayor Nenshi said he believed much of the work to review had been done in a short time by “our colleagues in the media” and was hoping it didn’t take “months and months and months” for this review to be conducted.

Palmer said this wouldn’t be a “two-year event.”

“(It’s) a reasonable scope of work that’s been articulated.”

Mayor Nenshi expected that once the motion was passed that the city auditor would then develop a scope of the entire review that will be made public, along with the timeline and when a final report would be delivered.

He asked about cost, but Palmer said that would be unknown until a scope was determined.

Transparency with the public

Several councillors spoke about the need to be transparent with the public about the expenses that are incurred by councillors.

“I think what we have here is the issue of policy and the process itself, because we need to be transparent as a possible so the public understand how their tax dollars are being spent,” said Coun. Sean Chu.

“We also need to understand that there has been a policy put in place for a reason, and each office is responsible to follow policy and be responsible for their own expenses.”

Coun. Jyoti Gondek, who brought council together on the notice of motion said it’s what the public expects, especially when it comes to public accounts.

“What we’re trying to do here is modernize municipal government,” Gondek.