Quebec's headline-making inquiry into corruption in the construction industry resumed public hearings this week amid confessions that a star witness’s damning testimony was falsified.

In the fall, the Charbonneau Commission stunned Quebecers as construction company owners and municipal bureaucrats admitted to giving and accepting bribes.

This week Martin Dumont, a former Union Montreal party worker, was back on the stand to clarify comments he made in the fall.

Dumont admitted he either lied or made a serious mistake on key testimony regarding the party of disgraced former mayor Gerald Tremblay.

Last fall, Dumont’s testimony was so damning that it played a major role in Tremblay’s resignation. He testified the ex-mayor was present when political organizers discussed shadowy finances, and even claimed that a receptionist told him she was asked to count $850 000 cash.  E

Monday morning, when the commission resumed after a seven-week recess, the former receptionist Alexandra Pion denied to commissioners ever talking to Dumont about anything. 

“I never mentioned this incident to Martin Dumont,” she said.

Receptionist denies she complained about counting cash

Pion told the Charbonneau Commission Monday that she refused an order to count wads of 20 and 50-dollar bills.

Pion said that her boss, Bernard Trepanier, had asked her to count the cash but that she declined because it did not fall within her duties as a receptionist.

Hired by the party in 2005 she partially corroborated previous testimony made on October 30, in which Union Montreal official Martin Dumont famously recounted that party officials had collected so much cash in illegal contributions that they were unable to jam it all into a safe.

But Pion’s accounts also contradicted certain elements of Dumont’s testimony. Pion said that she never complained to Dumont about the request to count the cash and did not invite him to coffee to make such a complaint.

She also denied that she told Dumont that the cash totalled $850,000, but she confirmed that Trepanier had a safe in his office, as did another party accountant.

She could not confirm Dumont’s statement that the safe was replaced because it wasn’t sufficiently large to fit all the cash donated to the party.

Pion also said that she could not confirm who exactly came through to visit key officials because visitors didn’t announce their professions.

Dumont faces tough questions

Dumont was later brought back before the commission to face this and other contradictions.

While he tried to avoid testifying for medical reasons, Justice France Charbonneau would have none of it, beginning a brutal line of questioning.

“My question is simple. Was that event true or false? Yes or no?” she asked him.

Dumont, almost in tears, said he may have mixed up his stories.

“Did I mix up the two stories? It’s very possible,” said Dumont.

That wasn't the only mix up, apparently. During a private meeting with two investigators last month, Dumont ended up telling them that maybe he didn't tell the whole truth.

“I should not have misled the commission,” he said.

Dumont's contradictions are embarrassing for the commission, because his testimony under oath proved to be the last straw for Tremblay,

Dumont's testimony comes just as Charbonneau warned everyone that the commission would not tolerate liars, and warned of dire consequences for those who would try.

Reputations, said Charbonneau, were on the line.

Last December police arrested Francois Theriault, a city inspector accused of hiding key elements in his testimony.

“If the commission learns that someone lied, we'll take action without hesitation,” she said.