Councillors disappointed with mayor's handling of staff travel

Several members of city council are not happy about the fact two members of the mayor's office went to Hawaii over the Christmas break.

Staffer with Coun. Farkas also left the country during holidays

Mayor Naheed Nenshi held a press conference Tuesday, Jan. 5 to say he regrets not stopping the travel of two staffers to Maui over the Christmas break. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Several members of Calgary city council are not happy about the fact two members of the mayor's office went to Hawaii over the Christmas break.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi revealed the trips on Tuesday.

His chief of staff Devery Corbin and an administrative assistant went on separate trips to Hawaii.

Nenshi said he was aware of the trips and all travel rules were followed by both staffers.

In hindsight, he said he regrets he didn't tell them to avoid leaving the country.

However, he said he would not be sanctioning his staff members. He said they aren't elected officials and their employer is actually the City of Calgary.

The mayor maintains that it is elected officials who must be held to a higher standard.

'Calgarians expect consequences'

The distinctions are lost on several other members of council.

Coun. Jyoti Gondek took to Twitter to express her displeasure, writing that elected officials and their senior staff must lead by example.

"There must be more than an apology from the Office of the Mayor. Calgarians expect consequences."

Coun. George Chahal said he's disappointed with the mayor's handling of the issue.

"There should be no non-essential travel. And I think as we expect Calgarians to follow these rules, as public officials, we need to ensure that we are following them and letting the public know that we're setting a good example," said Chahal.

For his part, Chahal has directed his staff to stay in the Calgary area and abide by all health restrictions related to the pandemic.

"We are in a state of local emergency."

Coun. Jeromy Farkas is also taking issue with Nenshi's handling of the matter.

Farkas, who has submitted nomination papers to run for mayor in this fall's municipal election, said that permitting the two staffers to travel was inconsistent with Nenshi's support for tougher health restrictions.    

"I think the message for the mayor here is one of hypocrisy. You can't have these politicians going out there and saying one thing and holding others to a different standard."

Farkas' staffer left country as well

However after making that comment, Farkas revealed that he too has a staffer who left the country.

Farkas issued a statement regarding a member of his own office staff who took a personal trip to Colombia over the holiday period.

"I have directed that they will be docked pay and not receive salary for vacation/quarantine. Calgarian taxpayers will not pay for this decision," wrote Farkas.

"Regardless of others' actions, I am responsible and accountable for my team. I am sorry."

Two other councillors, Ward Sutherland and Jeff Davison, also took to Twitter to express their disappointment with the trips taken by members of the mayor's staff.

Davison wrote: "Public trust and accountability require elected officials and their senior staff to be held to a higher standard."


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