Ummm... Civics lesson Chairperson Dauphin? your mechanisms are only working if you recover the $10 million. Until then it's all smoke.
"At Montreal city hall, down the street from the courthouse on Notre Dame St. E., Mayor Gérald Tremblay's administration took credit for the arrests, reminding reporters at a hastily prepared news conference that it was the city that called in the SQ to investigate the computer-systems division after the internal probe uncovered the false-billing scam that cost the city $10 million.
A career civil servant and a computer consultant were arrested and charged yesterday with defrauding the city of Montreal of millions of dollars in what the Crown and the city contend was a phony-billing scheme operating inside Montreal's computer-systems division.
Gilles Parent, who was fired as a section chief in the division one year ago today following an internal city probe, and businessman Benoit Bissonnette appeared in handcuffs at the Montreal courthouse, where they were arraigned on six counts each of fraud, breach of trust, creating false documents and conspiracy.
The Sûreté du Québec arrested Parent, 58, a resident of Ste. Anne des Lacs, and Bissonnette, 47, of Notre Dame de Grâce, earlier yesterday following a 14-month investigation that was dubbed Operation Killer Whale.
Parent and Bissonnette's lawyers entered no plea on their behalf yesterday.
Both men were ordered released on $15,000 bail and several conditions, including that they surrender their passports and agree to have no contact with the owners or directors of a list of companies that work in the computer field.
At Montreal city hall, down the street from the courthouse on Notre Dame St. E., Mayor Gérald Tremblay's administration took credit for the arrests, reminding reporters at a hastily prepared news conference that it was the city that called in the SQ to investigate the computer-systems division after the internal probe uncovered the false-billing scam that cost the city $10 million.
"It shows today that the (security) mechanisms we have put in place are working," city executive committee chairperson Claude Dauphin said.
"And in that respect I'm not upset about (the arrests), I'm happy, in the sense that those mechanisms are working."
Yesterday's arrests come just as other SQ investigations are under way into city deals that have raised questions about the ethics of some former politicians and former aides who surrounded Tremblay.
The administration is also awaiting a report by the city's auditor-general on a probe of how the city's $355.8-million water-management contract was awarded two years ago. The report is to be tabled in council on Sept. 21. The contract is also the subject of one of the SQ investigations.
With the campaign to the Nov. 1 municipal election set to begin at the end of next week, the mayor has gone to pains in recent weeks to portray himself as a crusader who is cleaning up city hall.
For instance, Tremblay has said he made the decision to phone the SQ to investigate an allegation by a contractor repairing the roof of city hall that a mafia figure tried to shake him down for a bribe that he was told would go to two councillors who sit on the executive committee.
"The message we have to understand today is that it's zero tolerance," Dauphin said.
"It's true there are investigations. But why are there investigations? It's because of our own requests the investigations were made."
Tremblay's political opponents, however, have called attention to the fact that the investigations involve deals that were all made during his tenure, including the water-management contract and a slew of transactions by the city's real-estate arm, the Société d'habitation et de développement de Montréal.
His rivals have also pointed out that an ethics code will be adopted for Montreal councillors at the Sept. 21 council meeting in the wake of controversies involving his team. For instance, former executive committee chairperson Frank Zampino acknowledged earlier this year that while still in office he vacationed on the yacht of a businessman whose company is a partner in the consortium that went on to win the water-management contract.
The lawyer representing Parent, the former mid-level city manager charged with fraud yesterday, said he was mindful of the political spin that would be put on the arrests.
"I'm sure that politicians will use whatever they can to their advantage in an election," lawyer Philip Schneider said.
"What they'll do with it, what they can do with it, I don't know. I'm not into politics, I'm into defending clients charged with criminal offences. They can play the politics. I'll play the courtroom."
Schneider added that while the Tremblay administration says the city lost $10 million, the Crown's charges involve
$4 million worth of fraud.
City officials revealed the results of the internal probe earlier this year. They said the fraud involved payments for consulting hours that were never worked by any of 10 computer firms that had multi-year contracts with the city.
The hours were filled in on time sheets that required Parent's approval.
Parent, who had been working for the city since 1982, was responsible for doling out work to outside computer consultants that were retained by the city following a public call for tenders.
The city fired Parent's superior, Joseph Hélal, earlier this year, for failing to catch onto the fraud scheme. Hélal is contesting his dismissal before a labour-relations board, the city confirmed yesterday.
A third bureaucrat was fired a few months later. The city says it cannot name the individual because the person has so far not contested the dismissal.
The Crown contends the fraud was committed between Aug. 1, 2006 and Sept. 30, 2008.
The Crown has four boxes of evidence, Schneider said.
"I'll look at the evidence before I advise my client what kind of plea he should enter," Schneider said.
The two men will also have a choice of a trial by jury or before a judge alone if they plead not guilty.
Bissonnette's lawyer, Marc Labelle, said he, too, would review the evidence, but added: "He will plead not guilty, that's for sure."