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‘There’s a vacuum here’: Why the latest Ward 2 expense report was delayed

Too many things just didn’t add up to Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart, so she wanted to postpone Tuesday’s discussion on colleague Coun. Joe Magliocca’s expenses.

The matter was set to be discussed at Tuesday’s Priorities and Finance committee meeting, but Coun. Colley-Urquhart asked for a referral back to the City’s Chief Financial Officer, Carla Male.

The recent report indicated that Coun. Magliocca should repay an additional $1,207.25 in ineligible expenses. This stemmed from an analysis of past out of town travel expenses.

With several different consultants and city offices examining the Ward 2 expenses, Coun. Colley-Urquhart said a closer look was warranted.

“We didn’t consider all of the other information that’s out there, and there’s an obligation for us to make sure that we have all of this lined up and that everything is accurate and that we are addressing these issues in a fair in an equitable and in a timely manner,” Coun. Colley-Urquhart told committee members.

The Ward 13 councillor said that with reports or examinations by at least eight entities, each with a certain scope, it was wise to take a step back for review.

Add in the layer of a policy overhaul by the Coordinating Committee of the Councillor’s Office (CCCO), which Coun. Colley-Urquhart took over as chair from the retired Ray Jones, and she wanted everyone to be on the same page.

“All of these pieces had not been integrated and brought together,” she said.

Discrepancies in expense policy

Coun. Colley-Urquhart said they had a responsibility to get this right. She said since she took over the CCCO, they’ve seen a lack of clear policy around councillor expenses.

How previous expenses were justified, corporate memory with staff leave and the conflict between policies was enough for Colley-Urquhart to suggest action.

“I felt I had to stop the bleeding here,” she said.

“We couldn’t have any of this stuff going on and continuing.”

Recent work on whether Coun. Magliocca’s expenses were justified came down to the discretion of those reviewing it, Colley-Urquhart said. Further, the waters are muddied due to Magliocca’s repayment of both eligible and ineligible expenses.

“Because there are no policies, there’s a vacuum here,” she said.

After she went through the recent report, went back to the previous reports, Colley-Urquhart said things didn’t add up. Further, she said they still haven’t been able to reach many of the people on Coun. Magliocca’s hosting expenses.

“I couldn’t justify that these numbers were solid that were going forward today,” she said.

“If you’re coming up with some numbers, you better be able to reconcile all of them.”

When asked if Calgarians may see this as a delay tactic, Colley-Urquhart said citizens would have their answers soon enough. She insisted that having a clear policy was critical to pass judgment on any councillors’ expenses.

The matter is expected to come back to a March 23 meeting of the Priorities and Finance committee.  Colley-Urquhart expected the information to be delivered in public, and not behind closed doors.