A former Calgary councillor violated city policies by hiring his assistant's daughter to also work in his office, according to one of his council colleagues.
In August 2018, former Coun. Ray Jones hired the woman on what's called a special project contract.
She was paid $1,568 every two weeks and ended up staying in the position for 2.5 years.
In total, the woman received $96,236 over that time.
Jones also used his office budget to provide her with $2,236 in monthly transit passes during her time on contract.
Councillors are allowed to hire people on special project contracts for a limited time and for specific purposes, but council policy prohibits councillors from hiring a relative or the common-law spouse of any assistant they already have under contract.
Long-time head of council committee
Jones, who represented Ward 10, resigned his seat on council last October for health reasons. He had been on council for 27 years.
He was also the long-time head of a secretive council committee, the Coordinating Committee of the Councillors' Office (CCCO).
The panel oversees the councillors' offices but it doesn't hold any public meetings nor publish any minutes of its deliberations.
After he resigned from council, Jones was replaced by Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart as the chair of CCCO.
When she found out that an assistant in the Ward 10 office had a daughter working in the same office, Colley-Urquhart said she acted quickly to remedy the situation.
"The contract was coming to an end. I didn't give a reason. I just gave notice that the contract would not be renewed," said Colley-Urquhart.
As chair of CCCO, Colley-Urquhart became responsible for the operation of the Ward 10 office after Jones resigned.
A short time after the special project contract was terminated, she also let the woman's mother go from that office.
CBC News has confirmed that some people who work in the office of the councillors were aware that the mother and daughter were both working in Ray Jones's office.
Breach of council policy
However, councillors interviewed for this story denied knowing about the situation until after Colley-Urquhart took action.
When asked why no one filed a complaint or raised a concern about the breach of council policy, she said it's mystifying.
"I wish I knew. The office manager at the time would have known because they execute the contract in partnership with the councillor."
That office manager is currently away on long-term disability leave.
Even as chair of CCCO, Colley-Urquhart said she still doesn't know what special project the woman was hired to do or why the employment went on as long as it did.
"It's unfortunate. I can't claim to know how these things went on for so long but it really points to the role of governance," she said.
Council is looking at tightening up rules regarding councillor expenses as well as the rules that govern the operation of their offices.
'This has been a massive cleanup'
Colley-Urquhart said it's possible CCCO itself might be done away with.
"This has been a massive cleanup to do," she said. "But it really has opened the door to transparency and in the end, we're better for it."
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he didn't know about the situation in Ray Jones's office. But he said that when he found out, he asked questions.
"What I can tell you is when that came to my attention and to the attention of others within the city, the situation was handled," said Nenshi.
The mayor said that, unlike the mayor's office, the office of the councillors runs fairly independently.
"They have different rules. The mayor's staff work for the city," said Nenshi.
"The councillors' staff actually personally work for the councillor. So it's always been a little unclear as to which human resources rules apply in situations like that."
Nenshi said he expects new rules will help prevent such situations in the future.
But he also points to a turnover in membership on CCCO as making a difference.
"A CCCO that sees its role as oversight and more stringently perhaps than it did before," said Nenshi.
Currently, the members of CCCO are Colley-Urquhart (chair), Coun. Jyoti Gondek, Coun. Druh Farrell, Coun. Evan Woolley and Coun. Shane Keating.
Prior to October 2020, CCCO members were Jones (chair), Coun. Sean Chu, Coun. Jeromy Farkas, Coun. Joe Magliocca and Coun. Keating.