Calgary

Integrity commissioner's recusal leaves council scrambling to continue expenses probe

In the wake of the recusal of Calgary's integrity commissioner, Coun. Jyoti Gondek says she is in the process of drafting an urgent notice of motion to ensure the examination of Coun. Joe Magliocca's expenses will not "fall through the cracks."

LoVecchio revealed councillor expensed $163 meal with him 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)

In the wake of the recusal of Calgary's integrity commissioner, Coun. Jyoti Gondek says she is in the process of drafting an urgent notice of motion to ensure the examination of Coun. Joe Magliocca's expenses will not "fall through the cracks."

"We're interested in doing a formal process to look into Ward 2 expenses. That has been something that the public has raised," Gondek said Wednesday. "Now that we don't have the ability to have the integrity commissioner to look into it, we have to find some other method."

The motion is being drafted in the wake of the revelation that the city's integrity commissioner, Sal LoVecchio, shared a meal with a council member now embroiled in a widening expense account investigation.

On Tuesday, LoVecchio recused himself from an investigation into Magliocca's expenses, having realized the councillor had expensed a meal the two men shared, without LoVecchio's knowledge.

LoVecchio said that because he dined socially with the councillor, and the meal was expensed without his knowledge, he felt it would be inappropriate for him to handle the probe into Magliocca's expenses.

Coun. Jeff Davison said on Wednesday that recusal isn't good enough. 

"I think at this point it's become very abundant that the integrity commissioner is not independent," he said.

"At no time should an integrity commissioner be meeting to have social lunches with any member of council."

Gondek said council members were told never to go for coffee or socialize at all with the integrity commissioner, who could potentially one day investigate complaints against them.

"When we have met with the integrity commissioner in the past, it's been made very clear that, 'When I talk to you, it'll be for reasons of an investigation,'" Gondek said. "[But] there's always context to decisions that people make. If I'm not willing to give somebody the time to let me know what the context was, then I'm not doing my job effectively."

Gondek said "a lot of people" were in favour of the notice of motion but were waiting to see a final draft before voicing their support.

Magliocca under fire

Magliocca has been under fire since it was revealed that he had 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. 

As the city's integrity watchdog, 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.

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

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

He added that the lunch was purely social and not part of any investigation.

He said Magliocca offered to pay for the lunch and it was only this week that he realized that instead of being personally paid for by the councillor, the lunch had been expensed and reimbursed to the councillor. 

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

LoVecchio offered to assist council in finding someone else to undertake the investigation in his place.

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. 

With files from Sarah Rieger

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