Former Montreal city manager defends reputation
Published Thursday, October 18, 2012 11:26AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 18, 2012 12:37PM EDT
A former manager for the City of Montreal is defending his reputation after being smeared at the Charbonneau Commission.
Robert Abdallah was among those singled out by Lino Zambito, the former president of Infrabec Construction, as possibly being corrupt.
Zambito said that at one point, when his company was repairing sewer systems on Sherbrooke St., Abdallah ordered him to buy pipes he did not need from Tremca Group, or else he would lose the contract.
"If I wanted the project from the City of Montreal, I had to install these pipes at the demand of Robert Abdallah," testified Zambito.
In a meeting with reporters on Thursday morning Abdallah refuted all of Zambito's allegations, point-by-point, while referencing a stack of documents that he provided that included copies of calls for tender, lists of contractors and sub contractors for the city of Montreal, and copies of bills submitted to the city of Montreal.
"Today I'm providing documents. Look at them them and tell me where I'm wrong," said Abdallah while waving the centimetres-thick stack of papers.
Abdallah said that while he was General Manager he was dealing with "hundreds and hundreds" of contracts each year, and that he would not see minor details like whether concrete pipes should be poured on site or whether pre-cast forms should be installed.
He said that by the time contracts came to his desk they were all-but-finalized by city engineers and the Executive Committee.
"This kind of contract never came to my level. It never even came to the level of my assistant. Verify it!" challenged Abdallah.
Abdallah said that he became General Manager while the city of Montreal was still dealing with the aftereffects of the merger and demerger.
He says he was responsible for creating a system of checks and balances to make sure contractors were not trying to take advantage of the system.
"You will see in 2005 that I cancelled contracts, many contracts," said Abdallah. "That's what I did, that was my job, that was my responsibility."
Abdallah said he is happy to have anyone responsible double-check his work and prove he is not corrupt.
Abdallah resigned from his post in 2006 under a cloud of suspicion, and in 2007 a member of the Prime Minister's Office pushed to have Abdallah hired as president of the Port of Montreal.
Several media outlets gained access to tape recordings showing that businessmen Tony Accurson and Bernard Poulin were soliciting help from the Conservative government to get Abdallah hired.
Another man was eventually chosen for the job.
From 2008 to 2011 Abdallah worked for Gastier Inc., which was purchased by Simard-Beaudry, one of the main companies in the Accurso group.
Former city manager Robert Abdallah arrives at a news conference he called to defend his reputation (Oct. 18, 2012)