01/20/2015 05:26 EST | Updated 03/22/2015 05:59 EDT

Calgary City Councillors Accused Of Alcohol, Drug Use On Job

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press
Newly-elected Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi walks past city hall the day after being elected to the office in Calgary, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010. Calgary's new mayor says he hopes his election serves as an inspiration to children of all races and backgrounds. Nenshi, 38, is believed to be the first Muslim mayor of a major Canadian city. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh)

Calgary's mayor and a councillor have accused other members of city council of using drugs and alcohol while on the job.

The allegations surfaced at a council committee meeting Tuesday morning.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he has often received reports of councillors drinking during meal breaks in meetings, of questionable behaviour at public meetings in the community and even of "illicit substances" being used by politicians in their workplace.

"To be frank with you, I've received multiple complaints about members of council who have gotten blotto at community events," said the mayor.

However, Nenshi said there's legally nothing he can do about the complaints.

'Wild parties' held during previous terms

Coun. Druh Farrell (Ward 7) told the committee she has seen what she calls "firing offences" inside councillors' offices.

She later said those parties happened during previous councils and not during the current term.

"Yes, there have been wild parties during working hours," said Farrell.

Neither Farrell nor the mayor named the alleged offenders as they spoke about the issue.

The city has rules that forbid workers from possessing or drinking alcohol in the workplace, but those rules do not apply to members of city council, who technically are not city employees.

At Tuesday's meeting, members of the priorities and finance committee approved a motion calling on city administrators to extend the city's policy on substance abuse in the workplace to council's ethical conduct policy.

That policy has been criticized by Nenshi in the past as it doesn't include specific enforcement measures. Any allegations of breaches of the ethical conduct policy are discussed by council itself.

Councillors react

Coun. Sean Chu (Ward 4) told the committee he doesn't drink alcohol, but he was critical of Farrell for not bringing up the issue with her colleagues directly.

"I really wish that councillor would refrain from attacking everybody with the same issue," said Chu.

Coun. Andre Chabot (Ward 10) told reporters after the meeting the allegations are "irresponsible and disrespectful."

The 10-year council veteran said he doesn't recall any instances of partying by council members at work. 

"Council is way more conservative now than they've ever been," said Chabot.

Alcohol use in city hall isn't the stuff of 19th-century folklore. And when Ralph Klein was mayor, he would frequently meet with officials and Calgarians alike at the bar in the former St. Louis Hotel, a block away from city hall.

Chabot wasn't on city council during the Klein years, but said he's heard the stories of wine being served in city hall to council members during dinner breaks at their meetings.

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