Councillors propose removing integrity commissioner over 'social lunch' with Magliocca

The City of Calgary crest and slogan “onward” is lit by afternoon sunlight outside Council Chambers on Monday June 3, 2019. Gavin Young/Postmedia

Some Calgary councillors are planning an urgent notice of motion to remove the city’s integrity commissioner after revelations that he had a “social lunch” with Coun. Joe Magliocca last summer.

On Tuesday integrity commissioner Sal LoVecchio said the meal required him to recuse himself from investigating a complaint about Magliocca’s expenses at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in 2019. Magliocca’s ward expense disclosure shows $163 for a meal with LoVecchio at Franca’s Italian Specialties.

Coun. Jyoti Gondek is planning to bring an urgent notice of motion to city council remove the integrity commissioner, and Coun. Jeff Davison said Wednesday that he also supports the move. The motion would be discussed at council’s next meeting on Feb. 24.

Davison said he views the episode as evidence that the integrity commissioner isn’t independent. The commissioner is responsible for investigating and adjudicating potential ethics matters related to city council.

“At no time should an integrity commissioner be meeting to have social lunches with any member of council. Their job is to remain independent,” he said.

“It’s incredibly disappointing because what has managed to happen now is you’ve further eroded public trust on this matter.”

Magliocca is facing an investigation into expenses from the 2019 Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference, which included claims for meals with eight elected officials who said they didn’t meet with him. Magliocca expensed $6,400 for the conference in Quebec City, including about $1,800 in “hosting costs” to cover meals and drinks for himself, councillors and other city officials. Magliocca publicly apologized and says he’s now repaid those receipts, totalling about $2,100.

Chestermere Coun. Yvette Kind formally complained to the integrity commissioner over those expenses after she was listed on one of Magliocca’s receipts for a $330 bar tab at an upscale Quebec City hotel, but she said she never drank with him.

But LoVecchio said his lunch with Magliocca, which the Ward 2 councillor paid for and expensed, means the integrity commissioner can’t look into Kind’s complaint.

“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,” he said in a statement.

Davison said LoVecchio’s meal with Magliocca could affect more investigations beyond the complaint about the councillor’s expenses.

“You’ve now cast a shadow of doubt over any investigation that’s currently happening. We need to push the reset on that and deal with this matter quickly and promptly.”

He added that Magliocca expensing a meal with the city council watchdog was another instance of filing an expense “when it probably was inappropriate to do so,” and if the integrity commissioner is not going to look into the FCM expense issue, the investigation should be referred to Calgary police.

“Over the short term, here’s going to be limited options we have in order to have an unbiased and independent investigation into the matter until we can get a new integrity commissioner in place, which could be months, let’s face it.”

More to come…

Twitter: @meksmith

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