Calgary councillor expense rules 'tightened up' after Magliocca investigation


Now, the city’s chief financial officer will be responsible for approving corporate credit card statements, as well as hosting and travel costs

Article content

Councillor expense rules at Calgary’s city hall have been overhauled after the investigation of Coun. Joe Magliocca’s spending uncovered systemic issues in the oversight process.

Magliocca has repaid close to $10,000 to the city for expenses over the current council term that were reimbursed using public money, but later deemed inappropriate under council policy. Those costs included flight upgrades, hotel charges and meals and drinks for himself and other politicians and officials — in some cases, the people he listed later said they were never hosted by the councillor.

A city report last month said the last outstanding Ward 2 financial issues have now been resolved. But there’s more work that’s gone into tightening and clarifying the way councillors have to report their spending.

The new rules are laid out in a 47-page bylaw document, which was approved Monday.


This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The changes include forbidding expensing alcohol for hosting or gifts and setting a 20 per cent maximum for a gratuity in any expense that requires it. Previously, alcohol has been an allowable hosting expense as long as the person being hosted wasn’t a Calgary council member or city employee.

All expenses incurred by councillors must also be publicly disclosed. In the past, spending from ward budgets was publicly viewable online, but travel and hosting costs covered under other corporate accounts were not.

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart now heads the co-ordinating committee of the councillors’ office, which is in charge of councillor expense oversight. She said the reforms make it clear what acceptable expense policies and practices look like moving forward.

Magliocca has said in the past that he always intended to follow council policies, and any discrepancies happened “in error.”

On Monday, council also approved a change that would see the city clerk’s office oversee the office of the councillors, which is where some administrative staffers work in various support roles for councillors.

It’s a technical update, but the aim is to create a more direct line of sight at the city and improve accountability.

Before, the chair of the councillors’ committee had final signoff authority for councillors’ expenses. Now, the city’s chief financial officer will be responsible for approving corporate credit card statements, as well as hosting and travel costs.


This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it was time to change a system where councillors were approving each other’s expenses.

“It should actually completely remove what we saw, which was inappropriate expenses being reimbursed and then pulled back later,” he said.

The mayor’s expenses are handled separately from councillors, and they already require CFO approval.

“This frankly should have been done in the councillors’ office a long time ago. I was unaware of how loosey-goosey it was up there. And so I’m very happy to tighten it all up.”

A forensic audit of Magliocca’s expenses last year flagged a variety of issues with the expense process. External review by the firm PricewaterhouseCoopers pointed out there were multiple policies that governed councillor expenses and allowances, adding up to a tangled web of potential confusion and conflict.

A few of the problems the report highlighted included conflicting requirements for explaining the business nature for “hosting” food and drink costs, no guidance around how large of a tip is appropriate to expense and a possibly “excessive” amount of $125 per day maximum that councillors can claim for personal meals.

A working group of city officials has subsequently been looking into how to fix the situation.

“It certainly has been a challenging time for many, many people, and certainly tarnished the reputation of some of us in elected office,” Colley-Urquhart said Monday.

“Some of the findings in the PricewaterhouseCoopers report really said, ‘You know what, your policies are not cutting it.’”

Twitter: @meksmith


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *