Calgary’s integrity commissioner has recommended a city councillor say sorry for posting false information to Facebook — but that councillor says no apology is forthcoming.
Council voted to accept the report from the integrity commissioner on Monday.
In December 2018, Coun. Jeromy Farkas posted a photo on social media that showed a scorecard for a vote on whether or not council’s pay should be cut. He accompanied the photo with a caption stating that council had voted to reject a pay cut and that councillor pay would increase.
During meetings, councillors keep scorecards to keep track of how their colleagues vote on matters before them.
But there was an issue with the card Farkas posted online — the vote never actually took place.
Farkas was asked at the time to apologize for the post, and when he refused, council unanimously voted to eject him from that day’s meeting. Councillors also complained to the integrity commissioner, triggering an investigation.
Integrity commissioner Sal LoVecchio wrote in his report, published Monday, that Farkas’ post was misleading and breached Article 11 of the city’s Code of Conduct.
“Providing misleading information to the public particularly when it misrepresents actions taken, or in this case not taken, by the members of council, in my view undermines public confidence in city governance,” he wrote.
“He should remove the post, which he has already done, which makes that suggestion moot and he should apologize unequivocally … he said that he did not intend to hurt the mayor and the other members of council. If that were a true assertion, apologizing will be the easiest thing in the world for him to do.”
There can be differences of opinion, people can be entitled to their own opinion. They are not entitled to their own truth.– Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi
Council voted 9-6 to accept the commissioner’s report and sanction Farkas.
“I will not apologize in private or in public,” Farkas said, adding that he considered the matter to be resolved.
The councillor has previously told CBC News that he had written a letter to council colleagues in December 2019 that he would do his best to work with them in future, but would not quote from that letter or provide a copy of it.
There’s no recourse in legislation to enforce the report’s recommendation that Farkas apologize, council was told by administration.
Farkas also made another social media post on Monday that some members of council say contains misinformation.
Before Monday’s meeting about the report, which took place behind closed doors before council could vote to release the report to the public, Farkas said in a Facebook post that council was holding a “secret meeting to discuss potential punishments” like “illegally preventing” him from attending future meetings.
“I’m worried about this post being released with an incredible amount of misinformation and potentially violating confidentiality,” Coun. Evan Woolley said.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Monday’s social media post from Farkas was “full of untruths.”
“There can be differences of opinion, people can be entitled to their own opinion. They are not entitled to their own truth,” the mayor said.
“Thumbing your nose at the process and assuming you are above the process, you are above the law and you can say whatever you want without any possible ramification, then that’s something for the voters to decide.
“Is this someone you want representing you … someone who was found to be misleading in a report that was done by an ex-judge and yet refuses to admit that the finding applies to them?”
Report took 510 days
Some councillors also voiced concern over the length of time the report took to be published — 510 days.
Nenshi said that was due to extenuating circumstances.
Coun. Jyoti Gondek withdrew her name from the complaint and voted against accepting the report. She said the investigation gave her no confidence the process was followed.
The integrity commissioner wrote that he first tried to come to a resolution informally, and said the vacant position of ethics adviser at the time left him in uncharted waters, as the ethics adviser can assist in the resolution process.
LoVecchio, whose term is set to conclude at the end of this month, has also been under scrutiny himself. In February, he recused himself from investigating Coun. Joe Magliocca’s expenses, after he disclosed he had gone for a social lunch with the councillor that he later learned had been expensed for $163.
The report is the first from the integrity commissioner’s office in nearly four years, since the previous commissioner, who was the first to occupy the role, asked the mayor to apologize to city staff for remarks he made regarding ride-hailing company Uber.