Sue Montgomery has been reinstated as mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. A Superior Court Judge granted her a temporary reprieve Wednesday on a decision handed down by the Quebec Municipal Commission.
On Monday, Montgomery was hit with a 120-day suspension, without pay, after the commission found her guilty of 11 ethics violations in June. The breaches stem from a 2019 human resources complaint alleging that Montgomery’s former chief of staff harassed two members of the borough staff.
In a six-page ruling, Superior Court Judge Mark Phillips validated several arguments raised in court on Tuesday by Montgomery’s defense team.
Philips questioned the partiality of the commission and agreed the case should have been processed faster, which dragged on for 16 months instead of the typical 90 days.
“So the judge decided that since the commission was slow in treating the process of Miss Montgomery, that they shouldn’t benefit of the end of the mandate of my client in order to infringe of her rights, that they should have processed the case faster,” said Eric Oliver, Montgomery’s lawyer.
The commission’s sentence was meted out just ahead of municipal elections in Quebec, slated for November. The commission argued against granting a reprieve because the suspension has to be served during the current mandate and can’t be carried over.
Montgomery is running for re-election under her own Courage party banner.
Wednesday’s stay is only a partial victory. Judge Phillips will be hearing arguments Oct. 5 pertaining to the ethical breaches, giving Montgomery a chance to plead her case.
Oliver expressed confidence in the proceedings.
“We’re pretty confident, my client is pretty confident in the Canadian justice system that has served its purpose well until now,” he said.
And while they are hoping for a favourable outcome, Oliver worries Montgomery’s reputation has been tarnished with little time left to undo the damage.
“Obviously, we hope that, again, my client position is going to be vindicated and that we we will be able to put that behind…” he said.
“We hope that Miss Montgomery will be able to convince the population of the borough that she’s the best woman for the post and that she has their interest, the interest of the citizen at heart.”
Meanwhile, Ensemble Montreal’s Lionel Perez, who briefly stepped in as acting mayor, said he’s been made aware of the situation and respects the court’s decision.
The Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce mayoral candidate, however, says the ongoing battle pitting Montgomery against the current Projet Montréal administration at City Hall is taking its toll.
“I am worried for the borough residents who will continue to pay the price for this internal war with Projet Montréal and to suffer from the instability that has been perpetuated for more than two years,” he said in a written statement to Global News.
Longtime borough councillor Marvin Rotrand, who sits as an independent and will not be seeking re-election, said he was disappointed with Wednesday’s decision. He believes justice has not been served.
“There’s a huge amount of evidence, a large amount of witnesses. And the grounds for contestation are, in my opinion, somewhere between a red herring and a wish,” he said.
Voters head to the polls for municipal elections across Quebec on Nov. 7, 2021.