With Calgary’s municipal election just days away, the city’s outgoing mayor has expressed dismay at recent comments by a candidate in the running to be his successor.
During an appearance on Granthshala News Morning on Friday, Nahid Nenshi said comments made this week by Ward 11 councilor Jerome Farkas during a debate organized by the Calgary Construction Association were false and misleading.
Farkas was in the process of explaining why he felt businesses didn’t trust City Hall when he pointed to an accounting error made by the city administration, and accused city employees of “loosing money” from local developers. charged up.
“The setting up of the city hall, including the administration, planning department, for which the councilor Gondek is the chairman of the committee, basically ran out of money from above. The industry paid millions and millions of dollars in these charges, and reallocated that interest income to other priorities without actually showing the receipts to the industry,” Farkas said during the debate.
Farkas’ remarks were in reference to an accounting issue identified by the city administration last year following a request from local developers.
According to the city, interest income from the off-site levy was inadvertently transferred to general revenue.
The city collects money from local developers through off-site levies that are used to build infrastructure in new communities and held in multiple accounts until they are used to fund those projects. go.
After review, the city administration called the issue an accounting inconsistency. Last year, $56.3 million was transferred from reserves back to the original fund during budget deliberations.
“We will continue to work with stakeholders to make our processes transparent and accountable,” Stuart Dalglish, general manager of the City of Calgary Planning and Development, said in a statement at the time. “There is now increased monitoring and better procedural mechanisms to ensure that this problem does not happen again, and we are engaging our external auditor to review the decision.”
“Counsellor Farkas was the vice chairman of the audit committee, which is the only leadership role he held in four years, so he knew better, he knows that’s not true,” Nenshi said. “The city found ways to put interest in those accounts to build more infrastructure.
“He needs to apologize, he needs to step back.”
On Friday, Farkas called his comments “factual” and did not apologize for the remarks.
“No criminality was implied, but the city made a mistake, and once the mistake was identified, then (the administration) came to the table with ideas on how to fix it,” Farkas said. “We need to make sure those mistakes don’t happen in the future.”
Farkas’s aides on the council running for mayor, Jyoti Gondek and Jeff Davison, called on him to apologize during the debate.
Davison, who represents Ward 6, said Friday that it was “shocking” that an apology had not been issued.
“You don’t get a chance to accuse the city’s administration of covert, criminal activities,” Davison told Granthshala News. “That wasn’t 100 percent the case, and the person who needs to look in the mirror here is him.”
Gondek, who was elected to Ward 3 in 2017, said she has challenged the city’s policy and administration, but said it should not be done with false claims.
“You cannot make false claims and blame the administration for things which are not true.
“You can’t say they’re losing money,” Gondek said. “It is incredibly disappointing for the administration to be portrayed like this. I’m not impressed that my colleague would say something like that.”
Although Farkas said he did not have criminal intent, Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt said that the term chosen could be understood as such.
“If you hear ‘skimming from above,’ you’re not hearing ‘moving it from one pile of money to another’.” You’re thinking ‘They’re taking this and putting it in their pocket,'” said Bratt.
“So what was a technical accounting issue that was discovered and resolved became a kind of mistrust, a misrepresentation.”
Historically, the incumbent mayor in Calgary has been relatively silent regarding municipal elections, Bratt said.
Nenshi shied away from supporting any council or mayoral candidates during the campaign, but Bratt said it is no secret that he and Farkas do not combine on many issues.
“(Nenshi) has often been unfiltered, and he’ll tell you what he thinks,” Bratt told Granthshala News. “He hasn’t endorsed a candidate, but it’s clear he doesn’t want Jerome Farkas to win.”
However, Bratt said he believed Nenshi’s comments were “one-sided”.
Ultimately, Calgarians will make their decision when they vote on Monday.