MONTREAL - Claude Dauphin reluctantly announced at Tuesday night's municipal council meeting that he is temporarily stepping down as the council speaker, one day after refusing a request from Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay to do just that.

"We are going through a difficult time," said Dauphin. "It’s very hard for me and those close to me so I’ve decided to do this for the sake of the dignity of the job and the council."

Dauphin has become the subject of an investigation by the provincial police regarding a grant given to a demolition company in Lachine, where he serves as borough mayor.

In a statement to council late Tuesday night, Dauphin said that given the current circumstances of the investigation it would be easier on all parties involved if he stepped down as speaker while the investigation runs its course.

Dauphin was the subject of an internal investigation by the city comptroller's office headed by Pierre Reid, which accessed his e-mail account.

Dauphin said in his statement that the internal investigation has been going on for the better part of two years. Tremblay said he learned in October, 2010, that the comptroller's office had handed the file over to the provincial police in March, seven months before the mayor says he found out.

On Monday, Reid was re-assigned from his position and Tremblay said the former comptroller had gone too far by reading through the e-mails of an elected official, though he sympathized with the delicate position Reid was in with "allegations of collusion and corruption" flying around directed at Dauphin.

In February, it was revealed that Reid's office had also been reading the e-mails of the city's Auditor General Jacques Bergeron, specifically communication with his lawyer.

But investigating an elected official is forbidden unless requested by the police or the provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Dauphin said Tuesday that he believed the investigation was illegal and that he would consult a lawyer to examine his options.

Both opposition parties said Monday they would throw their support behind Dauphin.

Vision Montreal Leader Louise Harel questioned the mayor Tuesday night on why it took so long for details of this matter to come out when he has known about it for six months.

The Quebec government demanded an end to this spy scandal crisis at city hall earlier Tuesday.

Municipal Affairs Minister Laurent Lessard said he wants to see measures taken to end the unauthorized snooping of e-mails.

Lessard says elected officials have the right to confidentiality when it comes to their electronic correspondence.

He added his department didn't authorize the snooping, while Quebec provincial police say they didn't ask anyone to snoop around on their behalf, either.