Calgary

Calgary councillors accuse colleague of grandstanding with pay cut press release

The issue isn't the idea of a salary freeze, it's the fact another councillor — Ward Sutherland — has already filed a notice of motion dealing with the exact same issue after discussions with his fellow officials. It's scheduled for council debate on Dec. 17.

Jeromy Farkas sent notice to media, not colleagues, but there's already a motion filed

Coun. Jeromy Farkas put out a news release saying he wants to freeze council pay, but a colleague already has a motion up for debate on that same issue. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Calgary city councillors are accusing their colleague Jeromy Farkas of grandstanding after he sent out a news release calling on council to freeze its pay. 

The issue isn't the idea of a salary freeze. It's the fact another councillor, Ward Sutherland, has already filed a notice of motion dealing with the exact same issue after discussions with his fellow officials. It's scheduled for council debate on Dec. 17. 

Farkas proposed introducing a motion at Monday's council meeting where it will debate the city's four-year budget plan that promises tax hikes and service cuts. 

"Well I think issue aside, this is a repetitive thing we keep seeing," said Coun. Jeff Davison. "The reality is, if you want to have things happen and you want to work with council to make things happen, you do it through the appropriate channels, which is the notice of motion channel. You know, we don't make rules and guidelines in the court of social media."

'We don't see that from him'

Davison says the majority of council has a good working relationship and they respect the process, no matter whether you agree or not. 

"And we don't see that from him," he said of Farkas. 

Coun. Jyoti Gondek agrees. 

"When we have a colleague who seeks out a press opportunity or a media opportunity to talk about something that collectively we as a group would be happy to have a conversation about, then definitely it positions one individual against a wider group," she said. 

"And that's not generally how we operate. We have lots of conversations about things because we understand how big the job is."

Belt-tightening

Sutherland says his motion calls on council to freeze its 2.6 per cent salary increase for 2019 as a means of showing leadership during the ongoing economic downturn and calls for citywide belt-tightening. 

He says he talked with many of his fellow councillors and they agreed with him, a process he says is important. 

"Well, you know what, I can't speak on his behalf," said Sutherland, when asked of Farkas's news release. 

"I can only say that we are a team and it's important that we talk together. And it's also important that we use the system and to file. So I was a little bit surprised when he did the posting without filing. But it's good at getting attention but it's certainly not conducive of being a team player."

Farkas said in a tweet Wednesday afternoon that it's unfair to suggest his news release came as a surprise.

"It is completely untrue to suggest that I'm surprising anyone with this. I've made my intentions known to colleagues well in advance," he wrote.

Symbolic move

The salary freeze is largely a symbolic measure, saving relatively little money in the grander city budget scheme, but councillors — including Farkas, Sutherland, Gondek and Davison — hope it demonstrates leadership and influences negotiations with city workers. 

"So, for example, if we were to accept a three per cent increase just for 15 people around the table, it wouldn't be that much. But that would be the standard by which, say, the union would be negotiating with us on," said Farkas. 

Council will debate the city budget on Nov. 26.

With files from Lucie Edwardson

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