Corrupt engineer and his boss on stand at Charbonneau Commission
Published Monday, November 12, 2012 9:10AM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 12, 2012 9:49PM EST
MONTREAL--Retired City of Montreal engineer Luc Leclerc has already admitted to taking more than half a million dollars in bribes, but he still thinks Montrealers got a good deal for their money.
Cross-examined Monday at the Charbonneau Commission, Leclerc said that apologizing would be of no use. "I don't think the people would forgive me," said Leclerc. However, he wrapped his testimony in the afternoon with an apology.
"I regret what I did," Leclerc said. "I appeal for the mercy of the general public, of the taxpayers of Montreal, and of members of the Order of Engineers."
After days on the stand where he had expressed little remorse for his actions, even boasting about his ability to falsify contracts, the retired civil servant pleaded for clemency.
On Monday, he was grilled about the culture of accepting bribes and gifts. According to the engineer, kickbacks were in the open and accepted by all. Leclerc said that gifts arrived during holidays by the truckload and were placed on chairs or under desks, but that nothing was done to hide the fact that construction companies were handing out presents.
“When we would go outside to get the gifts, we didn't hide it, and there were even times when the contractors would come inside with gifts," said Leclerc.
When pressed about vacation trips he took with construction company owners and known mafia members, such as Lino Zambito and Vito Rizzuto, Leclerc said there was no way his bosses did not know something fishy was going on.
In fact the most recent trip was this spring, when Leclerc, his former partner Gilles Surprenant, and their boss went south.
The retired engineer said there was little oversight of his department and the problem was compounded by staff cuts. He said independent auditing of some contracts was common until the mid-1990s and then the practice stopped.
On Monday afternoon Gilles Vezina took the stand. Vezina has supervised both Leclerc and Surprenant, men who bilked the public coffers out of over $1 million. Vezina admitted that he also received gifts like hockey tickets, fancy dinners and golf outings but said it never affected his objectivity.
He admitted that he had a chummy relationship with Mafia-linked contractors—having attended a birthday party for construction mogul Frank Catania and the marriage of a daughter of construction boss Nicolo Milioto, where he gave a $300 present.
But Vezina was adamant that it didn't affect his relations with contractors.
“At no time, with all these advantages that we received, did my opinion or my decision on any file change to favour a contractor," said Vezina, a team leader in the infrastructure department who is currently under suspension.
"I've never done that."
--with files from The Canadian Press.
Gilles Vezina testifies before the Charbonneau Commission looking into corruption in the Quebec construction industry, in Montreal, Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Former city of Montreal engineer Luc Leclerc testifies at the Charbonneau inquiry into corruption in the construction industry.