Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is calling for a full investigation by the city’s integrity commissioner after municipal documents were leaked detailing the risk of Olympics-related cost overruns in the construction of an athletes’ village.
Calgary mayor asks integrity commissioner to investigate Olympic bid costs leak
Nenshi said the leak, first reported last week, was a clear breach of council’s code of conduct and a contravention of rules under the province’s Municipal Governance Act.
“I will be asking the integrity commissioner to use his full authority to conduct that investigation, which includes a forensic audit of (council members’) devices, personal and city-owned, as well as email and text messages,” Nenshi said at Monday’s council meeting.
Just to be clear, Colley-Urquhart wasn't suggesting this would be a bad thing. She's all in favour of the chill, in fact Colley-Urquhart would like municipal affairs to get involved and take sworn statements from council members about the leak. #yyccc #yyc
CBC reported last week that the city was concerned about the risk of rising costs resulting from plans to locate an athletes’ village at Victoria Park. The report, based on confidential documents authored by the city’s Olympic secretariat, suggested the city could be on the hook for replacing the Victoria Park transit garage and the costs associated with remediation work that would be required at the site.
While the identity of the leaker is not public, Nenshi targeted his fellow council colleagues in comments condemning the disclosure.
“Not only do you have a responsibility under the (Municipal Governance Act) … you have an obligation, a moral obligation, to keep confidential things that council votes to keep confidential,” Nenshi said in chambers Monday morning.
An oath has to be taken and statements are taken in a formal way, and I dont think that the integrity commissioner has that level of authority.
Nenshi later acknowledged that a city staff member could also have been responsible for the leak. Meeting minutes show that nearly thirty senior staff members were present at the meeting where the leaked document was discussed.
City manager Jeff Fielding told Postmedia that since the city’s integrity commissioner does not have jurisdiction over administration, he will be directing corporate security to investigate “to ensure that a fulsome investigation is completed.”
Council had previously voted to keep the documents confidential on the basis that making them public could damage the competitiveness of the city’s bid — though administration agreed at a Sept. 10 council meeting to release a partially redacted version of the report.
Nenshi’s call for an investigation came after Coun. Jeromy Farkas introduced a motion Monday seeking the public release of the confidential Olympic report.
“What that precedent sets is, anyone who leaks anything can then get it released publicly and I think that’s ridiculous,” he said.
Council subsequently voted 12-3 against releasing the confidential report, with only councillors Farkas, Sean Chu and Joe Magliocca voting in favour of making it public.
Last week, a CBC report said councillors saw a document about “additional costs” that could arise from hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics that aren’t included in the Calgary Olympic Bid Corporation’s draft hosting plan. Moving the Victoria Park bus barns to make room for the Olympic Village could be one of these costs, CBC reported.
Speaking to reporters following the vote, Nenshi downplayed the significance of the confidential document, suggesting a redacted version of the report could still be made public, once speculative information and details regarding government negotiations were removed.
But even if the majority of the report is eventually released, Nenshi said, it’s still important the leaker is identified and punished.
“The real issue is that if a member of council conducts what is essentially an illegal act, then I have no choice, as the chair of the council, but to ask for that to be investigated and that’s where we’re at,” he said.
Farkas categorically denied being the source of the leak following Monday’s vote, but told reporters he views an investigation as a distraction from the issue of potential Olympic cost overruns.
“What really bothers me is that all the shenanigans really just muddies the water,” he said.
“Calgarians deserve to know what the actual costs are, what the benefits are and what the related financial, legal and security risks are. And the longer city council holds onto this document without coming clean to Calgarians, the more I call the entire process into question.”
CALGARY—Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Monday he will ask the city’s integrity commissioner to investigate after a media report on information council saw in a closed session on the cost of a possible Olympic bid.
Council elected Monday to again go behind closed doors to discuss the leak and council’s obligations around confidentiality.
But before council went in-camera, Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart urged the mayor to push for a provincial investigation into the leak.
At Monday’s council meeting, Ward 11 Councillor Jeromy Farkas referenced the CBC story and asked whether council could publicly release information about the “allegedly leaked documents.”
“With today’s IT abilities, we’re in a position where we’re much more capable of tracking these things down than we used to be,” said Colley-Urquhart, pointing out that municipal affairs has investigated past breaches of confidentiality at the city.
Following the closed-door meeting Monday night, council agreed to the release of a “public financial due diligence report” at the next meeting of the city’s Olympic Winter Games assessment committee on Oct. 2.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is keen on sniffing out the individual, or people, responsible for revealing closed-door meeting details and documents to the media.
Last week, CBC News obtained documents revealing that administrators told councillors there are costs above and beyond the estimated $5.2 billion the Calgary bid exploration committee outlined in its draft hosting plan.
“Having uncertainty on these numbers only serves to muddy the waters,” he said. “It was the Sept. 10 meeting two weeks ago we were told some of this information could be released.”
At Monday's council meeting, Coun. Jeromy Farkas asked his colleagues to change their Sept. 10 vote to keep the documents — revealed in CBC's reporting — secret. He wanted to publicize the information so that there can be a more "fact-based" discussion.
"I think that if there is information that we can release, I would rather us go down that road," said Farkas.
Ward 13 Councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart said Alberta’s Municipal Affairs ministry investigated a similar “breach” in previous years and she’d like to see the same approach now.
In response, the mayor said he'd like to launch a formal investigation into how those documents made it to the media in the first place.
"I will be writing to the integrity commissioner asking for a full investigation," said Nenshi.
"I will be asking the integrity commissioner to use his full authority to conduct that investigation, which includes a forensic audit of [councillor] devices — personal and city-owned."
The mayor encouraged councillors to look at their code of conduct, as well as their obligations under the Municipal Governance Act. He said everyone on the council floor has a moral obligation to keep confidential items that council votes on, confidential.
Coun. Farkas' motion failed with only three councillors voting in favour of his request, but council will be speaking about leaks in a private session.
Farkas said he "categorically denies" leaking the documents, and that he doesn't understand the pushback against releasing the information.
City manager Jeff Fielding said he'll be directing corporate security to undertake an investigation of administration in regard to the leaked document.
The documents obtained by CBC News showed there are still some costs not calculated as part of the draft master hosting plan presented to council and revealed to Calgarians earlier this month.
For example, the vision for an athletes' village is planned for where the Victoria Park transit centre currently sits — but money to move those bus barns and clean up any environmental contamination on site, isn't included in the figure presented to the public.
The information was relayed to councillors and city administration in a closed meeting where they were told the extra cash would be money the city is "compelled to spend as a result of agreeing to host the Games."
To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.
It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.