Tales of escorts, fancy dinners at corruption inqury
MONTREAL--Bribes, golf trips, bottles of wine...and escorts.
The latest testimony at the Charbonneau Commission is that construction firms routinely took a senior manager within Montreal city hall's engineering department out to dinner, and that on occasion entrepreneurs would offer him escorts.
Gilles Vezina, a supervisor in the department, said that he never took the entrepreneurs up on their offers of illicit sexual services.
"I had been married three or four years and that wasn't something I was interested in," said Vezina.
However the supervisor did not find it unusual for contractors to offer everyone in the engineering department gifts, saying that it had been a part of his department's cultural business model since he first began working for the city in the 1960s.
"They were trying to see what the client would accept. I took it that way," said Vezina.
What did interest Vezina was wine, about 30 bottles a year which were delivered to his home or office.
Vezina was also a frequent dinner guest of entrepreneurs, and said that was because entrepreneurs always had "business" to discuss and wanted to be up-to-date with the latest ongoing projects taking place, or about to take place, in Montreal.
Vezina has already said that at least three times a year he received tickets to hockey games, from firms such as Tecsult, Genivar, and DGL.
The supervisor also said that gifts he accepted did not influence any decision he made. He also said that he never accepted any cash, but was aware that others in his office were accepting gifts of many kinds.
Vezina's job was to approve contracts and monitor and approve cost overruns on projects.
One case that came up during Tuesday's testimony showed that Vezina may not have been keeping a very close eye on what was happening in his office.
He was asked about a 2006 project on Queen Mary Rd. that suddenly required an extraoardinary amount of excavation.
Vezina said he found it strange, unusual, almost inexplicable, yet approved the extra cost anyway.
Two of Vezina's employees, engineers Luc Leclerc and Gilles Surprenant, have already testified that between them they accepted more than one million dollars in bribes in exchange for inflating contracts.
When asked how he had approved cost-overruns that even he called "ridiculous," Vezina said that the two engineers had "tricked him."
Last week the city of Montreal suspended Vezina, with pay, following allegations made at the inquiry.
Several other supervisors and engineers, including Michel Paquette, Yves Themens and Francois Theriault are also on leave.