Calgary

Councillor's accusation of 'bullying' in closed-door session an 'abject lie': colleague

Calgary Coun. Jeromy Farkas says he was bullied by his colleagues during a closed-door session of council Tuesday morning.

Coun. Jeromy Farkas said colleagues walked out of the meeting, which Coun. Jyoti Gondek disputes

Coun. Jeromy Farkas, right, said his colleagues staged a walkout when he tried to respond to 'bullying' in a closed-door council session Tuesday. Coun. Jyoti Gondek called that accusation an 'abject lie'. (CBC)

Calgary Coun. Jeromy Farkas says he was bullied by his colleagues during a closed-door session of council Tuesday morning.

Council was in the second-day of discussions over its proposed four-year budget when it went into a closed session to hear an update from city administration on labour negotiations with city unions.

When the meeting resumed minutes later, Farkas was fuming.

Farkas said during the meeting, his colleagues vocally attacked his criticisms of the city budget, and when he responded, they simply walked out on him — enough that they lost the quorum of eight people, which is the minimum number of members required to hold the meeting.

"I think what just happened there was incredibly unfair … it's fundamentally bullying behaviour," he said.

"The moment I am able to defend myself and speak to it, council stages a walkout. It's incredibly unfair. I think it's disrespectful not just to me as a member of council but to the residents of Ward 11 that I represent."

'When you play with fire…'

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the situation should incentivize Farkas to reflect on his own behaviour.

"I appreciate what you're saying Coun. Farkas, but I also want to highlight that when you play with fire this can happen, if you are constantly treating your colleagues disrespectfully both around this table and in public," he said.

Coun. Jyoti Gondek wasn't willing to give any ground to Farkas' complaint.

"To say that council staged a walkout, Coun. Farkas, is an abject lie … I can't sit here and listen to you say you're being bullied," she said. 

Farkas has frequently butted heads with his fellow council members.

Last week, he was accused by his colleagues of grandstanding when he sent out a news release calling on council to freeze pay — after another councillor had already filed a notice of motion on the same issue.

He's also been asked to apologize multiple times and found to have violated council's code of conduct.

Nenshi told media he thinks Farkas' colleagues are frustrated by repeated "rude" comments the councillor has made outside of council chambers.

"He is treated with extraordinary respect and deference, despite frankly saying unbelievably rude things about his colleagues and administration when he's not in the room with them," he said.

"I'm frankly not that fussed about it because … we never make decisions behind closed doors, because we're not allowed to."

Farkas said he couldn't comment on the details of what he said his colleagues were attacking him for as it was said behind closed doors, but added he plans to continue to challenge council and push to have more debates in the open.

"If I'm attacked, I'm going to defend myself. I'm going to continue to speak up for the Calgarians that I represent." 

The debate over the proposed budget is slated to run all week.

With files from Scott Dippel

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