PR contractor allegedly paid by former mayor’s slush fund

By Robert Frank

Testimony last week before the Charbonneau Commission inquiry into corruption in the Quebec Construction industry claimed that a leading public relations professional who works in the mayor’s office had been paid under the table by former Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt’s political party.

“Pierre Desjardins was involved working in the mayor’s office for quite a few years,” said Roch Landriault.

“Given recent events, we sent him along this year to help Vaillancourt’s successor, interim Mayor Alexandre Duplessis,” the vice-president of Canada’s largest public relations firm, NATIONAL, told The Suburban in an interview. “He provided the link with the city of Laval’s communication staff.”

Although news reports last week claimed that Desjardins is a NATIONAL employee who had been seconded to the mayor’s office, Landriault explained that Desjardins is in fact an independent contractor for whom NATIONAL is just one of his many other clients.

“He is a freelancer who was working for us on contract, and not an employee,” Landriault clarified. He confirmed that Desjardins did partisan political work for Vaillancourt’s Parti PRO des lavallois, but explained that that work was beyond the scope of the work that he did on behalf of NATIONAL.

“Whatever happened with Parti PRO des lavallois and other contracts that he signed with other organizations was done as a freelance worker,” Landriault emphasized.

As reported in The Suburban two weeks ago, NATIONAL pulled the plug on its lucrative contract with the city, which still has another nine months to run.

The mayor’s respected spokesman, NATIONAL employee Pierre-Philippe Lortie, who was seconded to the Laval mayor’s office several months ago, told The Suburban last week that he will remain at his post until July 10, at the latest, to give the city time to find someone to fill the pivotal position.

Landriault added that Pierre Desjardins has been informed of NATIONAL’s decision to end its mandate with the city.

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