City Hall Witch Hunt
On Monday, there was an old fashioned witch hunt down at City Hall.
The suspected witch?
Ward 11 Councillor Jeromy Farkas.
Embarrassing Council by telling the truth.
Forcing Farkas to apologize despite not being wrong.
17 months ago, Councillor Farkas was thrown out of City Council chambers for suggesting that City Councillors were in line for a pay increase.
He had calculated that because of how City Council pay was determined, Councillors would actually be receiving a pay increase.
There was just one problem - the City's financial boss, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Carla Male, had said that Councillors would be getting a pay cut.
Councillors were outraged by Farkas' suggestion that they were getting a salary increase, and the City's administration backed them up.
There was just one problem.
The City's CFO was wrong. City Council WAS in line for an increase, and the data presented by Councillor Farkas was perfectly correct.
Did this stunning turn of events result in City Councillors offering their heartfelt apologies for maligning Farkas?
It kicked off a 17 month ethics investigation which entered its final act on Monday afternoon with a secret star court trial aimed at punishing Councillor Farkas.
There's a lot to unpack here, so let's take this point by point.
1. When Councillor Farkas said that City Councillors would get a pay raise for 2019 under the current method for calculating local politician pay, he was correct. The City's CFO admitted as much after acknowledging she gave City Council the wrong information. City Council ejected Farkas anyways and several Councillors filed a complaint against him with the Integrity Commissioner.
2. The current Integrity Commissioner, Sal LoVecchio, was supposed to rule on the matter within 90 days, per the rules governing his office.That didn't happen. Now, 17 months later, a few weeks before he leaves his post, the matter was rushed to Council over the weekend for a vote on Monday.
3. Integrity Commissioner LoVecchio is himself no stranger to controversy. Following an expense scandal involving hospitality expenses claimed by Ward 2 Councillor Joe Magliocca, the Integrity Commissioner was required to recuse himself from the matter because he had dined for free with Magliocca (taxpayers picked up the bill) and hence was in a conflict of interest to adjudicate the matter.
4. A retired Supreme Court Justice doesn't think Councillor Farkas has done anything wrong. Retired Justice John Major reviewed the situation and penned a letter outlining his opinion on the issue. He notes that it is City Council who is to blame for improperly ejecting Farkas form the meeting.
5. Now, City Council has voted 9-6 to sanction Councillor Farkas, requiring him to apologize for his actions (those opposing the move were Councillors Magliocca, Chu, Gondek, Jones, Colley-Urquhart and, of course Farkas). Rightfully, Councillor Farkas has said he won't apologize for telling the truth.
It's clear that City Council wasn't motivated by a desire to get at the truth - otherwise they would have thanked Councillor Farkas for providing correct information when the Administration failed to do so.
They decided to punish Farkas because he actually walks the talk when it comes to cutting costs down at City Hall, embarrassing many of his big-spending City Council colleagues in the process.
In his most recent column, Rick Bell shows just how ridiculous this politically motivated attack against Councillor Farkas is.
Save Calgary believes that voters need to know how their elected representatives are comporting themselves, and the issues they're choosing to focus on.
With Calgary's economy crumbling, City Council decided to exact revenge on one of their own because they didn't like that he had pointed out their hypocrisy. You would think that in the midst of a global viral pandemic, City Council would have other priorities to focus on than a witch hunt against a City Councillor from 2018.
We applaud Councillor Farkas for his commitment to fighting for the taxpayers of Calgary, and believe it is the rest of City Council - not Farkas - who owe Calgarians an apology.
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