By Robert Frank
Laval wants its money back.
Within weeks, the city expects to be in court to pursue Vaillancourt-era engineering firms and contractors, David de Cotis told The Suburban.
“There will be legal proceedings submitted to the court, together with evidence, to recover some of the funds that were squandered in the collusion and corruption years that Mayor Vaillancourt was in power,” the executive committee vice-chairman said in an interview.
“Not only the mayor but also the institutions that worked with the mayor in terms of public offerings and so forth,” he added. “These institutions will also face legal proceedings.”
Tens, hundreds of millions at stake?
Though de Cotis declined to specify exactly how much the city hopes to recover, he hinted that the figure will be an eye-popper.
“Millions and millions and millions of dollars,” he repeated. “It’s quite substantial.”
“We’ve hired a legal team to review the different types of contracts and public offers that were made during the Vaillancourt administration,” de Cotis continued. “After these are studied formally we will go public and make people aware of the precise amount of money that the city will try to recover. Money that was squandered. Contractors, different engineering firms and different vendors — even people internal to the City of Laval will receive subpoenas.”
“We are in a very strong position to move forward with our lawsuit,” he said. “The money belongs to the citizens of Laval and will go back to the citizens of Laval in one way or another.”
Wants tougher law
Laval is calling on the Liberal government to put more teeth into a draft law that will help to recover the city’s money.
“We don’t want Laval taxpayers to have to foot Gilles Vaillancourt’s legal bills,” de Cotis declared.
Laval welcomed the legislation, known as Bill 26, but Mayor Marc Demers told a provincial parliamentary committee, Jan. 15, that Quebec should tighten the screws on former elected representatives and civil servants even further.
“The accused should bear the burden of proof,” Demers said. “It would greatly facilitate our claims.”
Forcing the accused to prove their innocence would be a rare, radical shift away from most laws in North America and Europe, which instead usually require the state to prove the accused’s guilt.
Demers also wants Quebec to prohibit the accused from transferring alleged ill-gotten gains to their loved ones.
He concluded by cautioning lawmakers against concentrating too much power in the provincial Justice Minister’s hands.
“That would threaten municipal autonomy,” he warned. “Cities that can, ought to be able to file their own claims independently [of Quebec City].”
Finally, Laval wants to get back the severance pay and pension money that it has paid to anyone who might ultimately be found guilty.
“The day that Mayor Vaillancourt left office, he pocketed $240,000 in severance pay,” Demers reminded.
Laval plans to press forward regardless of what happens in the National Assembly, de Cotis told The Suburban.
“Bill 26 will just amplify our stand with the support and backing of the provincial government,” he said. “Our recommendations were very well received by the provincial government.
De Cotis said that the city already recovered $200,000 “in corruption and collusion money” in 2014.
“It’s going to a fund,” he disclosed. “The millions of dollars recovered through the legal process will be put into a fund to give back to the citizens of Laval—different associations that are really in need of some grants to give back to needy people.”