Provincial gov't supporting a confident Applebaum following UPAC raids
Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum speaks to reporters outside City Hall in Montreal on Feb. 19, 2013, following a raid by UPAC on the premises. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Wednesday, February 20, 2013 3:10PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 20, 2013 6:30PM EST
MONTREAL – A confident Mayor Michael Applebaum met with reporters for the second time in as many days Wednesday to re-confirm he’s cooperating fully with the province’s anti-corruption squad.
As many as 125 UPAC officers swooped in on nine locations, including Montreal city hall and borough offices Tuesday, part of a two-year investigation into breach of trust by a public officer, fraud and forged documents.
“It's hurts. (It’s) a stain on the city of Montreal, but at the same time, this is work that has to be done and I'm glad that UPAC is doing their work,” said Applebaum before a crush of reporters Tuesday.
The unprecedented raids took place in locations throughout the city, including the Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace borough offices – where the interim mayor served for many year as borough mayor -- as well as Union Montreal offices, Applebaum’s former party.
Applebaum said he was among the 25 people who met with police officers Tuesday afternoon, but made it clear he was merely helping police as a participant in the investigation and was not a target.
Projet Montreal leader Richard Bergeron, who was forced to promptly evacuate city hall Tuesday at 4:20 p.m. when police arrived, said the raids seem to be linked to Union Montreal.
“It seems to be linked with the financing of the last political campaign by Union Montreal in 2009 and maybe also in 2005,” said Bergeron.
Applebaum refused to comment on that matter.
“I gave my word to the investigators in order to make sure they're able to do their investigation and continue,” he said, adding he was not the focus of the raid.
“They did not take anything from my office. They did not go into my computers, they took no documentation, they didn't go in to any files either,” he said.
UPAC has not confirmed what, exactly, it was looking for, an issue that bothers former executive committee member Robert Libman.
“I hope this is not just a fishing trip. This should, one can assume, lead to allegations and eventual convictions,” he said.
Longtime city councillor Marvin Rotrand – now sitting as an independent – said he, too, wants to know why there was such a strong show of force.
“It's almost like it was more important to send a message and to be seen than to actually do whatever it is that they had to do,” he said, adding that the image of police at city hall was unsettling.
“Public cynicism is entrenched and becomes worse when police act in this way because people reasonably think all the elected officials are crooks,” he said.
Meantime, Quebec’s Public Security Minister Stephane Bergeron said the public should have confidence in city hall.
“Saying if they must have confidence in some individuals, I don't know, but they must have confidence in their institutions,” he said.
Jean-Francois Lisee, minister for Montreal, said Applebaum has its full support after the raid.
“He is the person that leads Montreal and we'll keep working with him,” he said.
Lisee told reporters that everyone involved should be presumed innocent, since charges have not been laid.
Justice must be allowed to run its course, said Lisee.
The provincial government's muted support for Applebaum stands in contrast with the stern posture it struck last fall with Tremblay. As scandals swirled around him, the government urged him to reflect on his political future.
Tremblay promptly resigned.
He was accused, during testimony at a public inquiry, of being aware of illegal financing of Union Montreal and ignoring it. Tremblay denied the allegation. Since then, the inquiry witness who made the claim has had other parts of his testimony attacked.