Madu won’t take action on Magliocca expenses, says city council should fix issues and ‘move on’

Albera Minister of Municipal Affairs Kaycee Madu speaks to media during the United Conservative Party annual general meeting in northeast Calgary Sunday, December 1, 2019. Jim Wells/Postmedia

Alberta’s municipal affairs minister repeated Friday that he doesn’t plan to intervene after a

forensic audit of Coun. Joe Magliocca’s spending

showed more than $5,600 in inappropriate expenses.

The RCMP confirmed this week that they will investigate the expenses after the Calgary Police Service asked them to take the file.

City council voted last month to send the report to police and Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu, and Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Thursday that he doesn’t agree with

previous statements

from Madu’s press secretary that he doesn’t have the authority under provincial laws to step in.

“The minister of municipal affairs loves to talk about how he’s the boss of the city and he has powers. Well, if you’re ever going to use those powers, how about using them in an opportunity where there’s been a significant breach of our code of conduct,” Nenshi said.

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In a statement Friday, Madu said he thinks it’s up to Calgary city council to fix its own expense process “and move on.”

“Calgary needs to take some responsibility, tighten up its internal spending rules and do a better job at protecting taxpayer dollars — it’s as simple as that,” he said.

“I get calls every day to fire various folks for various reason, including the Mayor of Calgary — but as Mayor Nenshi himself has said about this situation, ‘voters are the arbiters of this,’” Madu said.

Nenshi has declined to say whether he thinks Magliocca should resign over the findings of the audit, saying that’s up to voters.

The next municipal election is a little more than a year away.

Both the investigation of Magliocca’s spending and

a separate audit

of the rest of council’s expenses have identified issues with the

expense process

, and a city working group is already moving to solve them by the end of 2020. Currently, spending from councillors’ ward office budgets

is publicly disclosed

, but council travel and hosting costs expensed to the city’s corporate accounts are not posted publicly — another loophole Nenshi has said must be fixed.

Council called for the external audit of Magliocca’s expenses after

Postmedia reports revealed

the Ward 2 councillor expensed significantly more than his colleagues at the 2019 Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and

10 people he listed

on receipts for meals and drinks during the Quebec City conference said or confirmed through spokespeople they never dined with him.

The audit, which looks at Magliocca’s spending since the last municipal election, detailed additional problematic expenses including a hotel stay in Halifax for meetings the auditors determined never took place and 11 instances of non-existent attendees at events where Magliocca expensed meals and drinks.

In addition to $5,657 of expenses the audit found to be ineligible for reimbursement, the city will also examine around $9,000 in potentially ineligible flight upgrades. Magliocca has voluntarily repaid $6,220.66 to the city so far.

The municipal affairs minister has the power to dismiss an elected city councillor under certain circumstances — something neither city officials nor the mayor can do. However, the minister can take that step only after launching an inquiry to determine whether there was “improper, irregular or improvident” management within the municipality.

According to Alberta’s

Municipal Government Act

, if issues are found, the minister can direct city council “to take any action that the Minister considers proper in the circumstances.”

If that action doesn’t adequately address the problem, the minister has the authority to take several further steps, including “an order dismissing the council or any member of it.”

Nenshi said he thinks the forensic audit of Magliocca’s expenses likely meets the requirement for an investigation under the Municipal Government Act, and Madu has the option to take it from there.

 Councillor Joe Magliocca asks questions as Calgary 2026 unveiled its draft host plan publicly for the first time at City Hall in Calgary on Tuesday September 11, 2018. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Magliocca has not responded to multiple requests for comment from Postmedia since the results of the audit were released more than two weeks ago.

Nenshi said Magliocca also has yet to issue an apology as council directed.

That was

among the four sanctions

they issued in the wake of the audit. They also agreed to a public letter of reprimand, requiring Magliocca participate in training on expense policies and banning him from expensing business travel for the remainder of his term.

“He has to give an apology,” Nenshi said. “Council has been very clear about that, that a public apology is requested and desired.”

Magliocca apologized twice earlier this year when issues over his expenses started to emerge.

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