Calgary

Calgary integrity commissioner recuses himself from investigation into councillor's expenses

The City of Calgary's integrity commissioner has recused himself from an investigation into a city councillor's expenses, because he said he dined with the councillor and the meal was expensed without his knowledge.

Commissioner says the councillor expensed a meal with him for $163 without his knowledge

Sal LoVecchio, city council's integrity commissioner, has come under fire after it was revealed he had a lunch with Coun. Joe Magliocca, who put the bill on his expense account unbeknownst to LoVecchio. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

The City of Calgary's integrity commissioner has recused himself from an investigation into a city councillor's expenses, because he said he dined with the councillor and the meal was expensed without his knowledge.

Coun. Joe Magliocca expensed $6,400 — about double that of his colleagues — during a trip to the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Quebec City last spring, the Calgary Herald first reported.

His expense claims include meals and alcohol he said were purchased for politicians he said he met with, but some of those politicians deny those meetings ever took place. 

One of those politicians is Chestermere Coun. Yvette Kind, who confirmed to CBC News she has formally submitted a complaint to the city. She said she submitted the complaint three times, as her first two attempts did not receive a response. 

She declined an interview, saying the issue is now the City of Calgary's to pursue.

The taxpayers of the City of Calgary should not be paying for a social lunch of mine and I am deeply concerned to find out that this has occurred.- Sal LoVecchio, integrity commissioner

The city's integrity commissioner Sal LoVecchio is tasked with investigating and adjudicating ethics matters related to city council — formal complaints can be made online, or by email, mail or phone. 

But LoVecchio recused himself from this matter — after he said he realized Magliocca had expensed a lunch the pair shared, without his knowledge.

A $163 lunch

In August 2019, Magliocca expensed $163 for a meeting with LoVecchio at Franca's Italian Specialties, a restaurant in northeast Calgary.

Main courses at the restaurant range from $18 to $36.

LoVecchio said he keeps a detailed diary of appointments, and did attend a lunch at Franca's with the councillor on July 19, 2019 — not August as Magliocca's claim states. 

"The lunch was purely social and not part of any investigation I currently had underway," LoVecchio said in a statement on Tuesday.

He said Magliocca offered to pay for the lunch and it was only in the past 24 hours that he realized that instead of personally paying, the lunch had been expensed (and reimbursed) to the councillor. 

"The taxpayers of the City of Calgary should not be paying for a social lunch of mine and I am deeply concerned to find out that this has occurred," he wrote.

Questions about Coun. Joe Magliocca's expenses have led to a wider discussion about how council members submit expense claims. (CBC)

LoVecchio said as the investigation must be independent and impartial, he will be recusing himself as his expense could become part of the story and could blur the perception of that independence and impartiality. 

He said he has advised council of his decision and if asked will assist council in finding someone else to undertake the investigation.

Last week, Magliocca apologized for the expense claims and said going forward he would no longer be expensing any alcohol, adding that it would be his last public statement on the subject. 

Coun. Jeff Davison tweeted that he was disappointed by the situation.

"Calgarians expect action and better governance. It is completely inappropriate to have had lunch with a member of council when tasked as their watchdog," he wrote.

CBC News has reached out to Magliocca for comment on the integrity commissioner's statement. 

Kind isn't the only one calling for an investigation.

Calgary MLA Joe Ceci has also called for a provincial inquiry into what he's described as a "serious misuse of taxpayer funds."

A spokesperson for the provincial minister of municipal affairs said it's up to each municipality to pursue sanctions if a councillor is found to be in violation of that city's code of conduct. 

Coun. Jeromy Farkas brought forward an urgent notice of motion at committee Tuesday, calling for restricted spending at future Federation of Canadian Municipalities meetings. That was passed and will be reviewed by council at a future date.

Read the integrity commissioner's full statement below: 

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