Municipal commission spares taxpayers Vaillancourt’s legal tab

Former mayor, councillors left holding the bag

By Robert Frank

Former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt won’t be able to tap a half-million dollars in city funds that had been set aside to cover his lawyers’ bills, the trustees overseeing the city have decided.

The municipal commission that has overseen city hall since June 3, when the province placed Laval under trusteeship, refused to pay $167,423.76 in legal fees incurred by Vaillancourt and unnamed city councillors.

The city’s executive committee authorized the $500,000 fund while Vaillancourt was still serving as mayor last year.

In declining the payments to Vaillancourt’s lawyers, Jean-Claude Hébert and Nadine Touma, totaling $84,306.57, the commission citied the criminal charges that the Crown had leveled against the former mayor, May 8.

“The protection plan for elected municipal representatives against certain financial losses associated with the discharge of their municipal duties, as provided for in the Cities and Towns Act, doesn’t apply in these circumstances,” read the document signed on Aug. 22 by commission notary Céline Lahaie.

The commission cited a 2008 Quebec Court of Appeal judgment involving the town of Packington which, it said, was recently upheld by a 2012 case against the town of Boisbriand.

In refusing to pay separate bills submitted by Hébert and Charles-B Côté for $83,117.19 worth of legal work on behalf of the unnamed city councillors, the municipal commission explicitly concluded that the same legal protection program for elected officials “doesn’t apply in the case of a simple summons to testify before commissions of inquiry such as the Charbonneau Commission.”

“The transcripts of the testimony of Laval city councillors heard by the Charbonneau Commission showed that that testimony, basically, touched on the financing of previous election campaigns and that this topic is consequently not related to the exercise of an elected official’s duties,” the municipal commission’s decision read.

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