Still unclear who will investigate councillor's expenses after 4-hour closed-door meeting

A special meeting of Calgary city council was held Wednesday to address concerns with Coun. Joe Magliocca's expenses but after a four-hour closed-door session, the public still has no clear answer on who will investigate the complaint. 

'We want the public to know that we take this matter extremely seriously,' Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart said

Calgary city council met behind closed doors on Wednesday to discuss what to do about Coun. Joe Magliocca's expense claims. Council is pictured here in a 2015 file photo. (CBC)

A special meeting of Calgary city council was held Wednesday to address concerns with Coun. Joe Magliocca's expenses but after a four-hour closed-door session, there was still no clear answer on who will investigate the complaint.

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 people he claimed to have met with, but many of those people deny those meetings ever took place. 

A situation like this would usually be investigated by the city's integrity commissioner but Sal LoVecchio recused himself because he said he dined with the councillor and the meal was expensed by Magliocca without his knowledge.

Council voted 11-2 Wednesday in favour of discussing the matter behind closed doors, with only Councillors Druh Farrell and Jeromy Farkas voting against the motion. The closed session began shortly before 1:30 p.m., with councillors forbidden from bringing their cellphones into the meeting — an unusual stipulation. 

Coun. Magliocca absent

Coun. Magliocca was not present for the meeting. Nenshi said in a scrum following the meeting that the councillor wasn't prevented from attending the meeting but did not show up or dial in, and he doesn't know where he is.

Magliocca hasn't spoken publicly about the situation since he apologized to council for what he said were "mistakes" two weeks ago.

When council returned to the chambers around 5:45 p.m., it was made clear council had met with the city's integrity commissioner.

"We want the public to know that we take this matter extremely seriously. We've been wrestling with it for two or three weeks now," said Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart. 

But few other details were provided. 

Integrity commissioner Sal LoVecchio, right, recused himself from an investigation into Coun. Joe Magliocca, left, after learning the councillor expensed a social lunch the pair shared in 2019. (CBC)

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the matter has shown a gap in policy — where there's no person designated to investigate a complaint if the integrity commissioner has recused himself. 

Council voted 12-1 to keep the meeting confidential, citing personal privacy, confidential evaluations, advice from officials and privileged information, with only Farkas voting against. 

Council also voted to ask the mayor to act as a spokesperson on the matter of Magliocca's expenses, with Sutherland, Chu and Farkas voting against.

"Part of the discussion that we had really was around the need for a lot of clarity on this issue," Nenshi said.

And council voted unanimously for Coun. Jyoti Gondek's notice of motion to be brought forward for discussion on Monday. That motion calls for the city auditor to conduct a forensic investigation into Magliocca's expense discrepancies and for a better governance model for council oversight.

"I feel like the investigation's kind of been done … the question is where do we go from here," Nenshi said. 

With files from Scott Dippel


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