In his first council meeting as mayor, Denis Coderre faced criticism over an appointment that some consider a prime example of political patronage.

Coderre announced Tuesday his intention to make former journalist Philippe Schnobb head of the STM.

Schnobb ran for city councillor as part of Equipe Denis Coderre in Ville Marie’s St. Jacques district, but lost by 36 votes to Projet Montreal leader Richard Bergeron.

Bergeron was among the critics of Coderre’s decision, saying Schnobb, a former Radio Canada journalist, doesn’t have the experience to run the organization, which is trying to increase its ridership and is dealing with a predicted deficit of $60 million for 2014.

“He has no experience in transport, (or) in large public administration, Bergeron said.”Don’t forget the budget of the STM is $1.2 billion. You need someone who is used to today’s numbers, and for sure Mr. Schnobb is not.”

Francois Croteau, also of Projet Montreal, echoed Bergeron’s opinion, saying the decision was a typical partisan appointment.

But some defended the appointment. Real Menard, borough mayor for Mercier – Hochelaga-Maisonneuve said Schnobb could, if given the chance, be a credible authority at the helm of the STM.

Coderre said he believes Schnobb knows about transit and has all the capacities to do an outstanding job.

In the end, council approved Schnobb's nomination by a vote of 31 to 24. Schnobb will be assisted by councillor Marvin Rotrand, vice-chair of the STM.

Also Tuesday, Coderre proposed a motion that guarantees religious freedoms, something he mentioned often during the campaign.

It was a measure he wanted to implement because 70 per cent of immigrants to Quebec settle on the island of Montreal. Most of those people oppose the charter, Coderre said.

Coderre said he would be in favour of legislation that preserves the religious neutrality of the state. He also said he will be attending all public meetings regarding the charter to defend the city’s position.

“I think it was important for the city council to reaffirm its position it took a few months ago. There are new elected officials and a new mayor, and I think the signal to Quebec is ‘Hey, back off,’” said city councillor Marvin Rotrand.

Melanie Joly, who finished second in the mayoral race behind Coderre, was at city hall looking on during proceedings Tuesday afternoon.