Calgary

Nenshi's legal bill for Cal Wenzel fight is $299,728.59

The final tally for Mayor Naheed Nenshi's legal bill stemming from his battle with developer Cal Wenzel is in: $299,728.59.

Tab was paid by city, but the mayor now has to fundraise to reimburse the public purse

Calgary home builder Cal Wenzel, right, settled a defamation lawsuit against Mayor Naheed Nenshi in December. Now the mayor must fundraise almost $300,000 to repay the city for his legal bills. (CBC)

The final tally for Mayor Naheed Nenshi's legal bill stemming from his battle with developer Cal Wenzel is in: $299,728.59.

That tab was picked up by the city, but council voted to require Nenshi to reimburse the public purse — a move he championed.

"The City Solicitor decided early in the litigation process that Mayor Nenshi was acting within the scope of his duties and therefore entitled to the benefit of The City's indemnity for members of Council," reads a statement from the mayor's office. 

Nenshi will now have to find some way to fundraise, despite a lack of regulations around such activity, including limits on donations.

Proposed guidelines

Nenshi's office said he wants rules in place before he starts fundraising to repay the fees, and has written a letter to the city's new ethics commissioner for her opinion on the guidelines he has proposed.

In that letter released by his office, he outlines five points:

  • I will appoint an agent to act on my behalf with respect to the solicitation and collection of donations to the City. I imagine this will take the form of a third-party independent fundraising committee.
  • The committee will solicit donations made out directly to the City of Calgary and will follow the City guidelines for such donations.
  • The committee will inform me when they have achieved their goal.
  • The committee will set a deadline for its work, which will be this year.
  • All donors' names will be released at the conclusion of this work.

Nenshi is not speaking to the media about the total, or his fundraising plans at this time, with his office saying the released statement "speaks for itself."

Ethics

Lori Williams, a political science professor from Mount Royal University, said it's important that Nenshi is taking responsibility for repaying the fees and that the repayment will come through donations rather than taxes. 

She said the fact the money won't be solicited or collected by Nenshi, and the donors will be made public is also important.

"Of course everybody involved would prefer that this had not had to happen, I think that this proposal makes the best of a difficult situation," said Williams.

A cap on donations, whether from individuals, unions or corporations, should also be in place, she said.

"There are benefits both for donors and just for the public perception of this if there are a number of smaller donors rather than one or two large donors."

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