Amidst allegations of widespread corruption in Montreal’s City Hall, it has recently become apparent that the Montreal Comptroller General was spying on the city’s Auditor General.
In response to this espionage – and a host of other corruption allegations – opposition leader Richard Bergeron wrote a complaint to the Quebec Municipal Affairs Minister Laurent Lessard. Bergeron and his party, Projet Montréal, believe that Mayor Gérald Tremblay was involved in the espionage.
In the complaint, Bergeron wrote that the espionage constituted a “complete violation of the principles of independence.”
During Tremblay’s time as mayor of Montreal, there have been numerous City Hall corruption scandals. Montreal Auditor General Jacques Bergeron (not related to Richard Bergeron) was the individual who uncovered many of these incidents. One of these scandals include a city employee taking a holiday on the yacht of a waterworks company who were later awarded a $356-million contract by the City. This contract was then cancelled.
Another corruption charge was the link between Comptroller General Pierre Reid – who is in charge of internal spending – and Telus, while the city was negotiating a phone services contract with the company.
Some city councillors think the Comptroller General was acting in Tremblay’s interest by spying on the Auditor General, which included reading Jacques Bergeron’s confidential emails. Alex Norris, a Projet Montréal city councillor for Mile End, described the impact of Jacques Bergeron’s findings.
“This is a man who has uncovered irregularities and wrongdoings affecting hundreds of millions of dollars of municipal expenditures by the Tremblay administration,” said Norris. “Mayor Tremblay is trying to get rid of this man, so it’s in that context that we learned that the Comptroller General – who reports directly to the city – authorized an illicit and highly improper espionage operation in which for ten months the Auditor General’s confidential emails were systematically spied on by the administration.”
In a February 17 press conference, Tremblay stated that current conditions in City Hall did not lend themselves to an informed decision on the allegations.
“The decisions that we make must be imbued with a certain serenity. In the current situation it is impossible,” said Tremblay.
Norris discussed what Projet Montréal thinks Reid’s goals were in carrying out the espionage attempt.
“Pierre Reid’s employees were reading the email,” said Norris. “Reid is one of the most senior civil servants in the city and he has publicly defended Mayor Tremblay personally. He is a highly politicized civil servant and from what we can see he’s acting on behalf of Mayor Tremblay because Mayor Tremblay has refused to denounce this espionage operation in no uncertain terms and has refused to fire Pierre Reid. This leads us to believe that this operation was approved by Mayor Tremblay.”
Norris described what he thought were Reid and Tremblay’s goals.
“This [scandal] has consumed a lot of resources from the Auditor General’s offices,” said Norris. “It has forced the Auditor General to divert resources from carrying out investigations into irregularities of the City of Montreal and has diverted resources to uncovering and investigating this highly improper espionage operations.”
In an email to The Daily written in French, Bernard Larin, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s office, said, “The administration of Mayor Gerald Tremblay did not comment following the statement by Mr. Bergeron.”
“This has all the appearance of a hatchet job that can destroy [Jacques] Bergeron’s reputation so he can be sidelined,” said Norris.