Judge unimpressed with engineer’s testimony at anti-corruption inquiry
Published Wednesday, November 14, 2012 10:00AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 14, 2012 10:13PM EST
MONTREAL—Yves Themens swore he wasn’t a corrupt civil servant during his testimony at the Charbonneau Commission on Wednesday.
He accepted bottles of wine, hockey ticket, and golf trips from contractors—but he says he would have been useless to any contractor looking for a favor.
"In my job, there was no way for me to either help someone get a contract or modify costs, or bring any special advantages over someone else. My job was strictly an administrative one," said Themens.
The engineer has been suspended by the City of Montreal due to allegations of corruption within his department.
Despite his administrative posting, Themens never raised any red flags about skyrocketing costs for contracts he was supposed to approve, or that a closed circle of contractors won all bids.
“It's not like we could provide solutions,” Themens said in his defence.
The senior engineer also said that it was not his job to review contracts and cost overruns, but simply to ensure that the amount paid on contracts matched the amount budgeted.
Lawyers asked him many questions about phone calls at all hours of the day, night, and weekends that he received from construction companies. Themens said everything discussed in those calls was on the up and up.
When Themens took a trip to Cuba with self-confessed corrupt colleagues Gilles Surprenant and Luc Leclerc, he insisted he paid his own way and didn't talk corruption. That testimony contradicted that of his former colleagues.
Themens also disputed previous testimony offered Surprenant when he said that he saw his boss, Themens, flashing $100-bills and boasting that he had received his cut from 'Tony.' That revelation led to Themens's immediate suspension at work.
Themens said that event never happened and that he wasn't Surprenant's boss either.
Looking at an organizational chart of how the engineering department was organized, Themens said that nobody reported to him, and identified two other men as being Surprenant's direct superiors.
No matter how often Themens said he didn't receive any bribes, it was obvious Judge Charbonneau refused to believe him. As a supervisor, Themens should have known something was wrong she said.
“It totally went over your head? You signed without asking questions?” asked Charbonneau.
“It didn't go over my head, if I saw exaggerated costs, I asked questions,” Themens responded.
The judge was so suspicious she asked Themens to submit his stamped passport and cancelled cheques to prove he paid his own trip to Cuba; Themens nervously agreed.
The day ended with the questioning of a new witness, Michel Paquette, who confirmed the constant gifts of wine and diners. He will continue his testimony on Thursday.
Justice France Charbonneau smiles as she sits on the opening day of a Quebec inquiry looking into allegations of corruption in the province's construction industry in Montreal, Tuesday, May 22, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
A journalist arrives at the Charbonneau commission in Montreal, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012. (Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS)