Scott Strasser

University of Calgary law professor doubles as city ethics advisor

By Scott Strasser, May 27 2016 —

It’s been a busy few months for Calgary city council and one University of Calgary law professor has been in the thick of it.

Faculty of Law associate dean Alice Woolley said she is settling into her new role as City Hall’s ethics advisor, a position she’s held since April 11.

“My role is to give advice to council and councillors on their conduct — if a councillor is concerned whether he or she ought to do something or whether he or she ought to have done something,” Woolley said.

Woolley makes up half of the city’s new Integrity and Ethics Office. The other half is held by former Court of Queen’s Bench justice Allen Sulatycky, who acts as integrity commissioner, or “council watchdog.”

Woolley said she was initially hesitant about taking on the job, but it ultimately appealed to her.

“They approached me to see if I had any thoughts. I said ‘I’m busy, I’m an associate dean, I don’t really have the time for this, but I’ll give you some advice’,” Woolley said. “I’m a big believer in the city of Calgary and good governance, so I felt like I had to do it.”

Despite only holding the position for six weeks, Woolley has been kept busy.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi wrote Woolley a letter on May 9, asking for advice on how to properly solicit donations to cover $300,000 in legal fees for his defamation lawsuit with home builder Cal Wenzel.

More recently, Councillor Ward Sutherland said at a council meeting he will bring a motion to council about redrawn ward boundaries, which will impact future campaign boundaries for municipal elections.

Woolley said councillors looking for reelection in the 2017 municipal election will likely seek her advice on the issue of ward boundaries.

“They’re going to potentially seek advice from me on how councillors should conduct themselves in areas which are subject to changes in ward boundaries,” she said.

Woolley has a two-year contract with the city. It comes with a $2,000 monthly retainer and a $200 hourly wage for services.

Woolley will have to provide council a detailed report in June of how she sees the role of ethics advisor evolving in the future.

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