MONTREAL - The City of Montreal is denying reports that it ordered internal investigators to spy on the city's auditor general, but admits the city's comptroller conducted one anyway.

Jacques Bergeron sent a letter Tuesday to all city councillors, informing them city bureaucrats were snooping in his email account, and had been reading all correspondence, including private messages sent to and from his lawyers.

According to Bergeron, the investigators were reading emails from at least June 9, 2010 until Jan. 25, 2011, apparently in an attempt to find irregularities in how the Auditor General was conducting business.

Bergeron says this behaviour is unlawful and violates his mandate to operate independently and at arm's length from the city.

Tremblay administration denies ordering investigation

Representatives of Mayor Gerald Tremblay say the work was done by the city's comptroller, Pierre Reid, and the internal investigations department without the knowledge of the mayor, the executive committee, or any elected member of the administration.

Spokespeople say Tremblay learned of the ongoing investigation a few weeks ago and ordered it to stop.

The municipal opposition parties are denouncing the email snooping of the city's watchdog as being completely inappropriate. 

Opposition demands Reid resign

Pierre Lampron of Vision Montreal and Alex Norris from Projet Montreal both spoke out against the city administration Tuesday.

"The fact is the way where this investigation has been made, the process used by the administration to get access to everything where the auditor general was involved in absolutely unacceptable," said Lampron.

Norris is calling on Reid to resign, and failing that, for Mayor Tremblay to fire him.

"It was under his authority that the interception of emails and the spying and the opening of attachments and legally privileged documentation was carried out," said Norris.

The Projet Montreal councillor is also doubtful that the mayor was ignorant of what was going on.

"We question the mayor's assertions that he knows nothing," said Norris.

Mayor Tremblay says he will not speak about the matter until next week, when a report about the snooping is delivered to City Council. 

Watchdog has clashed with city council

Bergeron was chosen as auditor general for Montreal in May 2009, and immediately set to work digging up irregularities in city contracts.

In September 2009, he released a report on the $355,000,000 water meter contract that highlighted cost overruns, poor oversight and an inadequate bidding process.

Later that year, his office launched a snitch line so that city staff and contractors could report possible ethics violations without fear of reprisal.

In 2010, the Tremblay administration yanked control of the ethics violation line away from the Auditor General and put it under the office of the city comptroller.