Unanswered questions remain for council on Magliocca matter

It's been more than a year since concerns were first raised about Coun. Joe Magliocca's travel expenses.

Councillor still won't talk about improper expenses

One year after issues were first uncovered with Calgary Ward 2 Coun. Joe Magliocca's expense filings, there's still no explanation or public apology. (CBC)

It's been more than a year since concerns were first raised about Coun. Joe Magliocca's travel expenses.

But his refusal to explain the situation and an ongoing police investigation mean some questions remain unanswered.

A forensic audit ordered by city council last year concluded that Magliocca improperly claimed expenses for business hospitality meetings he allegedly had with other people. In several cases, the audit couldn't find some of his guests or others who said they didn't actually eat or drink with him.

As a result, council voted to impose four sanctions.

It wrote a letter of reprimand to him, requested he write a public letter of apology, take training on proper city procedures and barred him from submitting any business travel expenses until the end of the current council term.

The reprimand letter was issued last September.

The councillor, who represents Ward Two in northwest Calgary, has not written a public apology letter.

The city confirms Magliocca did take the required training last November. And, business travel by any council member remains a rare event during the pandemic, rendering that sanction a non-issue.

Magliocca did voluntarily repay more than $6,200 to the city. He even produced receipts as proof the city did get the money.

No comment, no explanation

But to this day, Magliocca has refused to comment on the problems with his travel claims, how this happened or offer any explanation for why he submitted claims for meals and drinks he bought for people who weren't actually at the same table.

The audit report was handed to the Calgary Police Service for investigation. It in turn referred the matter to the RCMP. There's no word on the status of that investigation.

In October 2020, council voted to have Magliocca reimburse the city $2,700 for air travel seat upgrades that he booked without approval. Following that vote, Magliocca issued a statement indicating that he would repay that amount.

However, he will not confirm to CBC News if that has actually happened and the city refuses to comment.

Council has no power to impose sanctions

Some members of council say it's a frustrating situation. But they concede it's one that they literally can do nothing about.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi refused to comment on the current state of matters relating to Magliocca.

However, last September he was asked about the possible repercussions of Magliocca ignoring council's sanctions and his refusal to comment on the situation.

"There are none," said Nenshi at the time. "We do not have the ability to actually impose these sanctions."

The provincial government does have the power to remove a local elected official from office but the UCP government has signalled it has no interest in pursuing this matter.

"We basically gave the most extreme sanctions we have to give," said Nenshi.

Magliocca's refusal to apologize hasn't sat well with most other council members.

One indication of that came last October during council's annual organizational meeting. That's when the committee assignments and other duties for council members are decided for the year ahead.

It was proposed on the way into the meeting that Magliocca be deputy mayor for February. It's just a designation of which council member in a given month will stand in to represent the mayor if he's unavailable.

But after closed door conversations, council voted to not include Magliocca at all on the deputy mayor roster for 2021.

The move came a month after Nenshi said that council could theoretically impose more sanctions against the councillor but he questioned the point of doing so.

"It could be [revisited] but I don't know what you would do about it. Because then he could just ignore it again if that were his view," said Nenshi.

Magliocca is the second member of this council to ignore some or all sanctions imposed for breaching council's code of conduct.

An investigation by former integrity commission Sal LoVecchio in May 2020 determined Coun. Jeromy Farkas breached the code of conduct for a social media post about a council vote which never occurred.

LoVecchio recommended Farkas apologize for providing misleading information to the public. Council accepted that finding and requested the apology.

But Farkas refused to comply.

Political scientist Duane Bratt said both situations show there are problems with the system for dealing with breaches of the code of conduct.

On one hand, he said you don't really want a situation where council members are disciplining each other unnecessarily.

But he doesn't like the idea of handing that power to someone outside of council like the integrity commissioner.

"The question is: is fixing the flaw worse than the flaw itself?" said Bratt.

He called a situation like Magliocca's somewhat rare.

"If this was occurring on a regular basis, by multiple councillors over multiple years, then I do think you need to solve something," said Bratt. "But we're dealing with one councillor on a very small dollar amount."

Given the province's decision to not get involved, Bratt said it seems Magliocca has gone through the public 'naming and shaming' of the process and decided to act like nothing has happened.

Magliocca continues to attend council meetings.


Like Nenshi, Bratt said Magliocca's future lies both in his own hands and possibly that of voters in Ward 2.

Magliocca hasn't revealed whether he intends to run for re-election in this fall's municipal election. But if he does, Bratt said voters can pick someone else or decide to keep Magliocca in office.

Another potential future way to deal with politicians who break the rules is recall legislation.

The province doesn't appear to be heading in that direction by making changes to the Municipal Government Act or the Local Authorities Election Act.

Bratt pointed out even trying to bring in recall only raises a host of other questions.

The most obvious one is: how many voters would be needed to trigger a recall?

"There would [need to] be red lines about how quickly you could do it after an election. Could you do it in the year before an election?"

Magliocca's refusal to acknowledge the controversy won't be found on his website.

Ten monthly columns he's posted there over the past year don't include any mentions of the situation nor any apology.

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