Calgary city councillors have directed that Ward 2 Coun. Joe Magliocca pay back roughly $2,700 in flight upgrades stemming from an investigation into travel expenses.
Councillors on the Priority and Finance committee unanimously approved that number, which was reduced after it was learned that Coun. Magliocca had paid back too much from before.
All the expenses are tied to Federation of Canadian Municipality trips, first exposed by the Calgary Herald earlier this year. Coun. Magliocca already voluntarily repaid $6,220 in expenses. That didn’t include airfare expenses and some hosting expenses.
It’s since been determined that Coun. Magliooca upgraded seven flights while he was council’s representative to the FCM between 2018 and 2019. The report looked at whether those upgrades were allowed – as they’re typically supposed to fly economy class.
The city’s ethics advisor Emily Laidlaw said it was difficult to determine if an economy flight was available. Historical data isn’t typically kept on that.
“There’s also several things that can affect flight prices,” she said.
“At the time there might be the time of day you booked or the actual day you booked or different deductions or seat sales, etcetera all kinds of different factors.”
Coun. Magliocca had advised he would pay the difference between his flights and the average of other councillors that attended FCM events.
The average airfares were compared to Magliocca’s. That’s how they determined that $3294.25 needed to be paid back. They subtracted Magliocca’s $563 overpayment to arrive at the $2,730.59 final amount.
Publicly discussing internal matters
Coun. Sean Chu said that with an RCMP investigation ongoing into the original expense situation, he wondered if this should be handled less publicly.
“We all know that when any case is under investigation, we should not talk about it. With this item, now we’re discussing it,” Coun. Chu said.
“Would that be seen as trying to interfere or trying to influence the outcome of the police investigation?”
City solicitor Jill Floen said that the RCMP matter and the code of conduct investigations are very different. She said the city is just looking to make sure of compliance with their code of conduct.
“The RCMP investigation, on the other hand, is look for something much different, which is whether or not there has been a Criminal Code or other infraction that they will take action with respect to,” she said.
“There’s also a different burden of proof. So, it must be beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Flaws in the system, but let’s get it done
Coun. Jeromy Farkas raised the issue of referring the matter to another committee, like the council expense working group.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it’s best to just get the matter resolved.
“I don’t think anyone is served by stretching this out,” he said.
Coun. Jyoti Gondek said there are some issues here, especially with how councillors are adhering to the code of conduct or whether it has any teeth to enforce sanctions.
“This is a giant mess. When I read some of the statements that are in the document about Councillor Magliocca saying, ‘well, the CCCO (Coordinating Committee of the Councillors’ Office) didn’t tell me that was wrong,’ where is the self awareness of our code of conduct?” Coun. Gondek asked.
“Ultimately, that’s what this matter boils down to.”
Ethics advisor Laidlaw said the code of conduct had no teeth. It operated more on a “naming and shaming” for results.
Mayor Nenshi said during the meeting that a letter was sent to Coun. Magliocca in August, asking for a public apology.
No response apology has been provided.
Coun. Magliocca did provide a statement to LiveWire Calgary Tuesday afternoon.
“As was clarified in PFC, I have repaid any ineligible expenses months ago. I also made the request months ago to voluntarily repay any airfare costs that were in excess of other councillors, which I am in the process of doing. On a more personal note, I have previously struggled with my weight. I weighed over 300 pounds which was why I booked seats with more room. Over the last couple years, I made a commitment to be more healthy and I have lost nearly 100 pounds. I have always intended to follow City policies strictly and, as previously stated, I apologize if I was in error. I would hope that council also apply this same standards of audit and review to the travel expenses of the rest of council including Mayor Nenshi’s $90,000 taxpayer funded trip to India and his trip to Italy with the American based Rockefeller Foundation.“
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