City engineer cross-examined at corruption inquiry
Published Thursday, October 25, 2012 9:56AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 25, 2012 9:19PM EDT
Gilles Surprenant was described as a liar motivated by greed as he faced cross-examination on Thursday after more than a week of damning testimony.
And on his last day of testimony, the so far unrepentant former city engineer admitted he made a mistake.
The retired Montreal city engineer has told the Charbonneau Commission that he accepted bribes for decades, that everyone up to the highest politicians in the city took bribes, and that the corruption of city workers and elected officials was an open secret.
Throughout his testimony, however, Surprenant deflected blame, saying he was a product of a corrupt system, and that he attempted to return to the public coffers some of the $600,00 he was handed to award contracts to certain construction companies by gambling it away.
On Thursday, he agreed to take responsibility for his actions.
“I bitterly regret everything that happened, and my past 10 years at the city were catastrophic,” he said.
Though the admission was candid, Justice France Charbonneau took Surprenant to task for blatant omission.
For example, though Surprenant admitted to receiving $600,00 in brides, the judge’s calculations were different.
“More precisely, it was $736,000,” she said.
“Errr...yes, I didn't keep count,” he replied.
He also said that he never thought of reporting the bribes to police or the city's Auditor General.
"It wasn't in my best interest," said Surprenant.
The commission remained skeptical about Surprenant's claim that he's now an honest man again.
Asked him about his South Shore home and its timely sale about six weeks ago, he told the commission the city evaluation was set at $275,000, and the market price was roughly $350,000
Surprenant sold the home to his daughter for one dollar.
Though Surprenant swore he had no intention of hiding his assets from future lawsuits, city of Montreal lawyer Martin St-Jean asked him lengthy questions about his many contradictions in an attempt to prove that Surprenant’s testimony should not be trusted by anyone.
A journalist arrives at the Charbonneau commission in Montreal, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012. (Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS)