MONTREAL – Just months away from a municipal election, Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay faced allegations of corruption at city hall on Tuesday involving extortion and Mafia-meddling over a $10.6-million contract to replace a roof.
It’s the latest twist for Tremblay’s administration, which has been dogged by allegations of impropriety and ethical misconduct in recent months.
A livid Tremblay called a news conference on Tuesday where he spent much of the time lashing out at Montreal La Presse, which raised the allegations with a blazing front-page headline.
A person with ties to the Montreal Mafia reportedly told a contractor to pay $40,000 to two of Tremblay’s city councillors to ensure he kept the lucrative contract to replace the roof.
The newspaper says the contractor never paid the bribe.
The mayor said he’s not happy his administration is being lumped in with a police investigation that is directed at corruption in the construction industry.
Tremblay defended the city councillors, who were not named in the story, and criticized La Presse for trying to discredit him and drive him from office.
“The article, it is all insinuations, it’s suppositions, allegations that have not been proven,” Tremblay said.
“If you have proof, I challenge you, show it, tell us the names.”
Tremblay is seeking a third consecutive mandate as mayor, something that hasn’t been done since the iron-fisted quarter-century reign of Jean Drapeau from 1960 to 1986.
Drapeau was also mayor from 1954 to 1957.
Tremblay is expected to face stiff competition in the Nov .1 election in former Parti Quebecois cabinet minister Louise Harel, who is running under the Vision Montreal banner.
Also in the mix is Richard Bergeron, head of the feisty, grassroots Projet Montreal.
Tremblay confirmed he met in March with Montreal police who then handed the investigation over to Quebec provincial police.
The provincial force had no comment on Tuesday.
The mayor said he also met with La Presse editors three days ago and implored them not to publish anything as a police investigation was underway. He said La Presse’s story may have ruined the investigation.
The paper defended itself, saying it was simply doing its job.
“It’s not the first time (in recent weeks) the mayor has attacked La Presse,” said deputy publisher Philippe Cantin.
Cantin said Tremblay hasn’t been able to contradict anything that was published.
“The mayor does politics and we do news,” he added.
Benoit Labonte, Opposition leader at city hall, said the latest scandal is the sixth in recent months and raises certain questions.
The mayor and his party have also come under fire for its handling of a $355-million contract to install water meters – the largest contract in city history – which is now being investigated by the city’s auditor general.
Also this year, the head of the city’s housing and development corporation was fired after a city auditor’s report revealed irregularities in several property transactions.
“The principal managers of this city have to ask themselves the question if they have moral authority to run this city,” Labonte said.
(With files from Michel Lamarche in Montreal)