Councillors call on mayor to dismiss Calgary’s integrity commissioner

Councillors say the City of Calgary’s integrity commissioner has lost their confidence and should lose his job after the commissioner admitted he had to recuse himself because of a potential conflict of interest in an investigation into Ward 2 Councillor Joe Magliocca’s controversial expense claims.

“Absolutely, in my opinion, the integrity commissioner should have known better,” Councillor Jeff Davison said.

Ward 6 Councillor Jeff Davison and Ward 3 Councillor Jyoti Gondek said the notice of motion will be filed at the City Clerk’s Office by the end of the day.

“I think at this point to really focus on rebuilding public trust over this matter,” Davison said. “It would be very appropriate of council, which will be later today in a notice of motion, to direct the mayor to release the integrity commissioner from his position.”

“The notice of motion really addresses a few different things,” Gondek said. “First of all, what is the process that is now going to be followed to look into the expense claims?

“Is it an investigation? What does it become? Without an integrity commissioner, I don’t know who oversees this now. That is a big question.

“Secondly, the integrity commissioner should probably be released from responsibilities. To have put yourself in a conflict like this, I don’t know why we would keep that person on.”

Gondek also said council should also remove itself from policing any expenses in the future, as is the case now.

“There is a governance gap,” Gondek said. “There is a committee, the council coordinating committee. It oversees a lot of the expenses and policies and practices of council members. It puts the members of that committee, who are members council, in a very awkward position of overseeing their colleagues. That has to stop.”

City of Calgary Integrity Commissioner Sal LoVecchio released a public statement saying he had to recuse himself from investigating concerns over Magliocca’s expense claims.

The councillor asked to be reimbursed $6,400 from taxpayers money after the 2019 Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Quebec City.

The amount was about twice that of any other Calgary councillor in attendance.

Maglicocca apologized in council, vowing to pay back some of the costs but there are lingering doubts about his expenses claims.

The integrity commissioner admits he was in the process of beginning an investigation before he went through his own records and realized he dined with Magliocca last July.

“It was simply a social lunch,” LoVecchio writes in the statement. “As is often the case, who pays at these social lunches may vary from time to time.

“Councillor Magliocca indicated he wished to pay. I did not object, I simply said if there was to be another one, it would be for my account.”

But the integrity commissioner says Tuesday he discovered the problem.

“In the last 24 hours, it has come to my attention that Councillor Magliocca expensed that lunch to his councillor account and obtained reimbursement.

“The taxpayers of the city of Calgary should not be paying for a social lunch of mine and I am deeply concerned to find out that this has occurred.

“The real problem is I have now been formally asked to investigate the matter of his expense claims and I must recuse myself from doing so. This investigation must not only be, but must be, seen to be completely independent and impartial. As this expense might become part of the story, an investigation by me, in my view, would not satisfy that requirement.”

Gondek say the commissioner now puts the entire investigation into jeopardy.

“To find out last night that the integrity commissioner wishes to recuse himself from this matter puts us all in a very awkward position,” Gondek said.

“So any investigation or look into the situation we had thought maybe going on is either in jeopardy or perhaps non-existent. We don’t know the situation so we need to take some action to restore public confidence.”

Davison says it never should have happened.

“This is a case where you know your job is to be independent and I recall conversations on first meeting the integrity commissioner where he would say: ‘You will never have coffee with me. You will never have lunch with me, because my job is to remain independent and anonymous to you.’

“And we have completely crossed that line with this setting.”

Now Davison says it’s up to Magliocca himself to clear the air.

“I think you’re going to see the majority on council say we are not willing to go down with this ship. The councillor in question should call upon himself to launch that investigation to clear his own name if there is nothing to hide there.”

As of publication, Magliocca had informed Global News that he was preparing to release a statement of his own. Later, Global News was told Magliocca would not be commenting Wednesday.

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