Demers sets up ethics bureau

Frees city lawyers to talk to corruption investigators

By Robert Frank

At a Sunday news conference, Mayor Marc Demers announced that Laval intends to open a municipal ethics bureau.

According to Laval’s top civil servant, Serge Lamontagne, the city’s new eight-person ethics office will report operationally to Laval Police. He said that the mandate of the new organization, which will have a $1 million annual budget, will be to conduct investigations to counter collusion, defalcation and other misuse of taxpayers’ money.

The measure was one of four initiatives that he planned to introduce at Monday’s city council meeting, shortly after The Suburban went to press.

The mayor said in a statement that he intends to release the city lawyers from their professional oath of secrecy upon request, in their dealings with Quebec’s anti-corruption police force and the Charbonneau inquiry into collusion in the province’s construction industry.

“I will ensure that council requests and follows through on them,” Mayor Demers promised.

He also plans to beef up the powers of the city’s ombudsman and auditor general.

Both offices have historically been hobbled by previous administrations, which starved them of resources and the previous ombudsman, Diane Lemelin, was fired during the rule of one of Demers’ predecessors as mayor, Alexandre Duplessis.

“Henceforth, the ombudsman will be empowered use her judgement to receive, assess and follow through on citizens’ requests,” vowed Mayor Demers.

Laval’s auditor general will get the power to spend money on contracting out services. The move was mooted as making the office more independent of city council by letting it use third-party firms to conduct future audits without having to ask municipal politicians’ permission.

“These two bodies function as citizens’ watchdogs,” concluded Mayor Demers. “The have to remain independent.”

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