Mascouche Mayor Richard Marcotte resigns, months after corruption arrest
Published Friday, November 30, 2012 10:25AM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 30, 2012 10:11PM EST
MONTREAL--The mayor of Mascouche stepped down on Friday.
Richard Marcotte was charged in April with six count of fraud, corruption, and breaching the public trust in a sting that also saw the arrests of noted construction entrepreneur Tony Accurso.
Marcotte was tied to construction allegations in 2010. During an investigation by Radio-Canada's Enquete program, Marcotte was said to have been involved in a scheme where he awarded municipal contracts in exchange for political funding.
In all, 47 charges were brought against the 15 people arrested by UPAC.
The mayor has been unable to peacefully attend a council meeting ever since. In July townspeople jeered him relentlessly until he left, and Marcotte did not attend November's meeting citing the illness of a relative as his reason for staying away. Marcotte told the Mascouche weekly newspaper Trait d'Union the illness of his son is the main reason he is resigning. He also told the newspaper the reason he waited so long to resign was his wish not to trigger an expensive byelection.
However political opponents say the new law planned by the Parti Quebecois government is also a factor.
That law would force any elected official accused of a crime to step down from their position until charges are cleared.
"With the law number 10 it is possible that the mayor will be suspended of his occupation," said city councillor Serge Hamelin. "That's a good thing not only for the city of Mascouche but for those all over Quebec."
Hamelin, who like many has wanted the mayor to step down for months, said there are flaws in the current state of affairs in the province.
"There was a weakness that the mayor could do as he pleased without any pressure."
Marcotte has been mayor for two decades, and will be entitled to about $200,000 in severance pay.
Councillors in Mascouche, a suburb just north of Montreal with 40,000 inhabitants, will have 30 days to pick an interim mayor.
The mayor's corruption-related resignation follows those of Montreal's Gerald Tremblay and Laval's Gilles Vaillancourt in a five-day span at the beginning of November.
Asked about the impact of their abrupt departures on his own decision, Marcotte said it had no effect.
"Mascouche is neither Laval nor Montreal nor any other city," he said. "The situation is not the same, so there is no connection."
Mascouche's pro-mayor, Lise Gagnon, told a news conference Friday she hopes to follow Montreal and Laval in having an interim mayor appointed until provincewide municipal elections are held next fall. Marcotte's term was set to run out then.
"We will look in Mascouche for the possibility of an interim mayor until November 2013," Gagnon said.
Marcotte said he waited so long to resign to avoid triggering a premature election that would cost the municipality $200,000.
A spokeswoman for the town of Mascouche said there would be no immediate comment.
In Quebec City, Municipal Affairs Minister Sylvain Gaudreault said Marcotte made the right call in stepping down.
"It's a decision that I greet favourably," Gaudreault told reporters. "It's a request that had been expected by numerous citizens in Mascouche, so it's a good decision considering the circumstances."
--with files from The Canadian Press.