Nenshi Uber video referred to integrity commissioner while some details remain secret

Mayor Naheed Nenshi apologized again on Monday for calling Uber "dicks" in a video he didn't know was being recorded but said details surrounding another aspect of the video — whether or not the city hired criminals to apply as Uber drivers — still can't be revealed publicly.

City says it used 'customary and appropriate investigative techniques' but won't reveal what those are

Naheed Nenshi said that while he was not aware he was being recorded, 'that’s not the point,' in a Saturday blog post. (YouTube screenshot)

Mayor Naheed Nenshi apologized again on Monday for calling Uber "dicks" in a video he didn't know was being recorded, but said details surrounding another aspect of the video — whether or not the city hired criminals to apply as Uber drivers — still can't be revealed publicly.

City council also voted, after meeting privately, to refer the matter to the city's newly appointed integrity commissioner.

The video, which surfaced Friday, was recorded as the mayor took a Lyft ride from a part-time Uber driver in Boston who livestreamed the entire encounter.

In the video, the mayor describes Uber officials as being "dicks" to deal with and suggests the city enlisted people with criminal records — even, perhaps, sex offenders — to apply as Uber drivers in Calgary to demonstrate how poor the company's background checks are.

Nenshi has since said that he misspoke when he made the sex-offenders remark, but declined to give further details about how the city actually did test Uber's screening process.

"I think that the salient question that a lot of council members have been asking over the weekend has to do with our enforcement and investigation procedures and I understand that there is a live legal action at the moment around that, and so I understand that part of that needs to go in camera," the mayor told council Monday.

The term "in camera" refers to council holding its discussion behind closed doors.

The mayor didn't say in council which "live legal action" he was referring to but his chief of staff later clarified on Twitter it was the injunction the city applied for — and received from a judge — last fall, prohibiting Uber drivers from operating in the city.

The city applied for the injunction after Uber unilaterally launched its service, despite a city bylaw at the time that forbade it.

Council has since amended that bylaw to allow for companies like Uber to operate legally, but Uber has refused to resume service in Calgary, saying the city's licensing fee and other aspects of the new rules are cost-prohibitive for many of its drivers.

'Customary and appropriate' techniques

In a statement to CBC News, Uber spokesperson Jean-Christophe de Le Rue said Nenshi's comments "have spread damaging untruths about our business practices in press across the world.

"His apology is a first step in what we hope will become a more constructive dialogue about ridesharing in Calgary," he said. 

The city put out a brief statement later in the day, saying "customary and appropriate investigative techniques" were use to assess Uber's screening process but offering little other information.

City solicitor Glenda Cole advised council members against any detailed discussion about that topic.

City solicitor Glenda Cole inside Calgary city council chambers. (CBC)

"Any questions with respect to the city's investigation process should be discussed in camera," Cole said.

Nenshi would only say that he — and the public — has been aware for months of at least one person who made it through Uber's screening process.

The mayor said he initially believed that person had an active assault charge but later learned it was actually an assault conviction.

He also told reporters he was sorry for any confusion caused by the video of his conversation with the Lyft driver in Boston.

"I made allegations that it went further than that and that's not fair, that's not right," Nenshi said.

"I'm very sorry that I made it sound like there's a lot more to it than that."

Integrity commissioner to investigate

Nenshi said he would be "happy" to have the matter referred to the city's newly appointed integrity commissioner, if council so desires.

Council then moved the meeting behind closed doors and, when they emerged, voted 13-1 to do just that.

Coun. Druh Farrell was the lone vote against. Coun. Brian Pincott was absent.

The integrity commissioner's job is to investigate allegations of wrongdoing against members of council. His mandate does not include investigating members of city staff.

"We want to make sure that all of our input is clear and ethical," Coun. Andre Chabot told CBC News Calgary at 6. "We want to be leaders, we want to make sure that we're promoting our city and not doing things that will put our actions into question."

Nenshi said he also spoke with the city's ethics adviser — another newly created position  — about the video and she told him his choice of language in the video was not necessarily a problem, in itself.

"She was remarkably undisturbed by the entire situation," Nenshi said.

"She said, as long as you were being candid and honest, the fact that you used a not very nice word really is irrelevant. And then she pointed out to me that she, herself, swears like a trucker, so maybe she'll teach me a few new words."

With files from CBC News Calgary