April 29, 2013 8:04 pm

At Charbonneau, the last defence of a former mayor


MONTREAL — Former Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay wrapped up his testimony at the Charbonneau Commission by saying he left the city in better shape than when he was elected in 2001. But as members of the commission grilled him about the scandals that wracked City Hall during his administration, Tremblay frequently answered that he didn’t know about them while in office, or that he knew about them at a late stage.

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He never knew, for instance, about an alleged kickback arrangement between former Executive Committee Chairman Frank Zampino and Faubourg-Contrecoeur developper Paolo Catania. The scandal-ridden project involved land the city sold to a Catania company for a little more than $4 million, even though it was valued at around $30 million. Zampino elected today to be tried by a judge — instead of a jury — for corruption charges. Eight others — including Catania — are also scheduled for trial in their role in the alleged scheme.

Tremblay also said he never saw a letter circulating around City Hall indicating that Montreal’s construction work was being dominated by a cartel of the same four firms.

And Tremblay categorically denied a suggestion made by Prosecutor Sonia LeBel that anti-corruption crusader and MNA Jacques Duchenau tipped him off in 2009 that four members of his inner circle were untrustworthy.

“It never happened,” Tremblay told the commission in French. “If it had happened, who are those people? What are their names?”

Justice France Charbonneau repeatedly asked a question that many Montrealers have asked themselves for months: how could Tremblay be in a position of such influence without knowing what was going on under his nose.

“You weren’t locked in an ivory tower, Mr. Tremblay,” Charbonneau told him at one point.

In response to questioning, Tremblay said “if someone did a dishonest act, he didn’t tell me.”

Early in his testimony Tremblay admitted to becoming suspicious about contractors in 2012, when he said he noticed the same companies were always getting the same contracts in the same boroughs.

Tremblay finished his testimony before the commission with a strident defence of his 11 years in office:
“I left the city in better shape than it was when I got here.”

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