Laval to hire new ombudsman

Three commissioners see to interim service
By Robert Frank

Laval residents will have recourse to their three remaining volunteer ombudsman commissioners, while the city finalizes its plan to replace them with single, full-time municipal employee, Josée Cailloux told The Suburban.

The president of the ombudsman service confirmed in an interview that five of the city’s seven commissioners met Mayor Alexandre Duplessis at city hall, Jan. 28, to discuss his plan to revamp the ombudsman office, in the wake of a Jan. 14 city council vote to fire part-time secretary-general Diane Lemelin.

“The mayor wanted to know what we thought of his intentions and whether we would continue to collaborate in the meantime,” she recounted.

Controversy erupted a week later at the Feb 4 city council meeting, when the mayor proposed a resolution in the belief that the commissioners had agreed to the interim measures.

Ombudsman vice-president Claude Cartier—who, together with three other commissioners, subsequently resigned—told the gathering that he had never consented, and had been counting on having time to reflect on the matter.

Cailloux told The Suburban that she believes the controversy stems from a misunderstanding.

“It’s not that serious an issue, essentially because it arose from a misinterpretation of what was discussed,” she concluded. “Everyone concerned is honest, but it was clearly misconstrued. Those folks reacted strongly, but that’s their prerogative.”

“Personally, I’m in favour of continuing to offer an interim service, but others wanted more time to consider the repercussions,” Cailloux explained, identifying the other three commissioners who quit last week as André Labelle, Louise Gaulin and Daniel Sormany.

Defining successor’s role

Commissioners Yvette Gagnon and Ronald Lapierre have agreed to persevere, she added.

“What’s important is that the service we provide to the public continues unabated,” she affirmed. “I was at city hall this morning [to review requests], the number of which has declined.”

“We try to address citizens’ most urgent questions and refer some of the others to services like the 311 telephone information line that can help them more rapidly.”

In a subsequent interview, Mayor Duplessis told The Suburban that he is pleased that there will be no break in service. During the next 3-5 months, he added, commissioners Cailloux, Gagnon and Lapierre will also help to define the responsibilities of the new, full-time ombudsman that the city plans to hire.

“They will also be involved in the selection process,” he promised, “as well as in developing the job description. I think that’s the smoothest way to conduct the transition.”

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