Anti-corruption squad charged with cleaning up Montreal city hall
QUEBEC CITY - The new anti-corruption task force has been given its biggest task.
Public Security Minister Robert Dutil dispatched the fledgling squad – hatched in February – to find out what exactly is happening at Montreal city hall and flush out any corruption that may have seeped into Mayor Gerald Tremblay's administration.
"We want to have the truth about what happened in Montreal city hall," Dutil said at a news conference Wednesday.
Anti-corruption Commissioner Robert Lafrenière will get as long a leash as possible in order to investigate questions of illegal surveillance of officials as well as the allegations of wrongdoing stemming from the reading of emails in the ongoing spy scandal at Montreal city hall.
"I expect that we'll have the truth," said Dutil, "The commissioner will have all the power to do this investigation and give the public the truth about this thing."
The new police squad made its first splash with the arrest of former Boisbriand mayor Sylvie St-Jean and a former municipal councilor along with five others in February, laying 28 charges related to fraud, corruption and extortion.
But now Lafrenière and his squad have much bigger fish to catch, and a bigger net with which to do it.
Being ambushed by the provincial government at a time when he is already dealing with a public relations disaster at city hall had Tremblay in a very testy mood when he met with reporters Wednesday.
"The minister says he wants to come to Montreal? He's welcome," Tremblay said defiantly. "We will open our books, we will give him all the information. He wants to fast track it? We're in agreement with that but he's not only going to fast track the investigation with the city of Montreal, he's going to fast track all the files that we have given the Sureté du Québec for a long time."
Tremblay says Wednesday's announcement was borne out of his own effort to clean up city hall. It came a day after city council speaker and Lachine borough mayor Claude Dauphin stepped down while the SQ investigated a grant given to a demolition company by his borough.
Dauphin, one of Tremblay's closest political allies, was asked to step down by the mayor a day earlier.
The information that led to the investigation on Dauphin came via an internal investigation led by the office of city comptroller Pierre Reid, which included accessing the councilor's e-mail account.
It was the second time this year that method was used by Reid's office after Auditor General Jacques Bergeron had his e-mails read as well.
Tremblay, however, does not want the investigation to stop at Montreal city hall, he wants to see the province-wide inquiry into corruption in the construction industry the Parti Québécois has wanted for months.
Meanwhile, the opposition at city hall was pleased to hear the news of the Anti-Corruption task force's arrival, one day after expressing outrage that Tremblay sat on his knowledge of the comptroller's office's e-mail spying for six months.
"I expect that this unit can change the toxic climate prevailing at city hall," said Vision Montreal Leader Louise Harel.