City will pay mayor’s lawyers

Executive committee votes to pay for defense of Demers’ eligibility for office

By Geneviève April

Laval will be using public funds to pay Mayor Marc Demers’ legal bills for the upcoming trial that will decide if Demers was—or was not—eligible to run in last November municipal election.

The mayor faces a lawsuit alleging he wasn’t eligible to run in last year’s municipal election because he hadn’t lived in Laval for 12 months beforehand.

“The Cities and Towns Act clearly states that a municipality has to assume the legal fees to defend a counsellor whose right to fulfil their function is contested or who faces an ineligibility claim,” said the mayor’s spokesperson François Brochu. “Since the legal challenge was filed in December, after Mayor Demers’ election; the City has to assume the cost of his defence.”

According to Elections Quebec spokesman Denis Dion, though, the law doesn’t permit anyone to challenge a candidate’s eligibility in court until after they are elected, giving the incumbent an advantage, since city taxpayers will always be obliged to dig into their pockets to pick up the tab.

Elections Quebec is investigating two separate allegations of improprieties during the 2013 Laval municipal election campaign that saw Demers elected.

The statute states that “a municipality shall assume the defence of a person whose election as member of the council of a municipality is contested or who is the defendant or respondent in judicial proceedings brought before a court by reason of the person’s alleged disqualification for office as a member of the council.” 

“This is completely unacceptable, inadmissible,” decried city councillors Paolo Galati and Aglaia Revalakis and opposition leader Jean-Claude Gobé in a news release.

They noted that the law also says that the city can ask for the fees to be reimbursed if the mayor’s alleged act or omission was s a gross or intentional fault or a fault that was not part of his official duties.

“From my perspective,” said Jacques Foucher in a statement, “when a person is prosecuted for an infraction that he committed before taking office, and not in his capacity as elected official, that person should pay the cost of his defense. The city shouldn’t have to pay it.”

Brochu told The Suburban that he did not know how much money the city is now authorized to spend on Mayor Demers’ legal bills, He said that that information might since have been added to the file.

“Laval voters knew that there was a challenge to his eligibility, but 44 per cent of them cast their ballot for Marc Demers anyway,” advocated Brochu. “I think that [his defeated opponent for mayor] Jacques Foucher [who filed the court challenge last month] should bear the odium of the present situation, since he is disregarding the will of 44 per cent of Laval’s population (sic) and has embroiled the city in this legal battle.”

Last December, a few weeks after he said that he would respect Laval voters’ will, Foucher unexpectedly reversed his position and petitioned Quebec Superior Court to dismiss Demers from office.

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