City stumbles onto $4.8 million mystery fund

By Robert Frank

Mayor Marc Demers has disclosed that municipal officials have frozen a possible slush fund that they uncovered.

Since 2006, the mayor said in a statement, Laval has collected $4.8 million from residential property developers to cover the cost of infrastructure that the city incurred, to permit their construction projects to proceed.

“The city would bill property developers who wanted to build a project like a condominium complex, for example,” explained Mayor Demers’ spokesman François Brochu. “They would pay in advance for public works like sidewalks and sewers, for example.”

“The principle that developers should pay for such costs is sound, but the money was collected arbitrarily, unbeknownst to city council and without guidelines for city officials,” he told The Suburban in an interview. “We put a stop to it immediately.”

Brochu added that the funds will remain on ice until the city determines how they should be disposed of.

“For the time being, we can’t use that money because it is still unclear how to proceed properly,” he said. “We have asked [Quebec’s] Municipal Affairs ministry to help us assess the situation and help us reach a sound decision as to how to deal with the situation.”

Mayor Demers said that he was “deeply concerned for many reasons, particularly because former mayor [Gilles] Vaillancourt was at the heart of this practice.”

The city has yet to determine whether the practice predated 2006 and, if so, how much money might have been collected in this manner.

The city has also referred the matter to the municipal auditor general as well as to its ethics commission.

“On one hand, cleaning up the city’s administrative procedures is essential to ensure that Laval remains a favourable place to do business,” concluded Mayor Demers, “but it’s also intended to inspire citizens’ confidence in their [civic] institutions and to restore their pride in their city.”
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