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City of Montreal fires two employees in wake of corruption investigation

A sign points to the Charbonneau commission, a public inquiry into corruption within Quebec's construction industry, in Montreal September 17, 2012.


The housecleaning at Montreal city hall continued Friday with the firing of two engineers who allegedly accepted kickbacks while allowing construction bosses to inflate costs by millions of dollars.

François Thériault and Yves Themens were both fired following an internal investigation which found they accepted "advantages" and inflated costs to benefit construction companies, the city announced. A third engineer, Gilles Vézina, will be allowed to quit March 1, while a fourth man, Michel Paquette, was reinstated from his suspension.

Last fall the Charbonneau inquiry heard Mr. Thériault and Mr. Themens accepted trips to the sunny south, hockey tickets, booze and other gifts while sharing information on contracts and allowing construction companies to inflate bills.

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Evidence at the inquiry showed much of the city's engineering department took part in a collusion ring from 2003 to 2009 which allowed construction companies to inflate construction costs by tens of millions of dollars. Engineers Gilles Surprenant and Luc Leclerc accepted at least $1.3-million in bribes, by their own admission. Other evidence suggests the tally was hundreds of thousands much than that.

Mr. Thériault, a 54-year-old site inspector, was accused of accepting a $30,000 discount on a house he purchased in Laval from a construction firm. Unlike Mr. Surprenant and Mr. Leclerc, who offered confessions and apologies in testimony at the inquiry, Mr. Thériault denied ever seeing evidence of corruption.

In December, Mr. Thériault was arrested and charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. He is the first witness to face such charges for testimony at the inquiry.

Witnesses accused Mr. Themens of taking a small amount of cash, in addition to trips and gifts as he rubber-stamped fixed calls for tender which came to him from Mr. Surprenant. "It wasn't my job to contest and supervise estimates prepared by engineers," said Mr. Themens, who was Mr. Suprenant's supervisor.

Mr. Themens admitted to taking trips to Cuba and Mexico with Mr. Leclerc and Mr. Surpenant which were paid for, in part or in full, buy construction bosses.

Mr. Vézina, a senior supervisor in the public works department, denied there was any return on the gifts construction companies lavished on him, including regular expensive restaurant meals. He recounted dinners with construction bosses which ended with offers of hotel rooms and prostitutes which, he said, he always declined.

Mr. Themens, Mr. Thériault, and Mr. Vézina were first suspended in November. Mr. Surprenant and Mr. Leclerc retired several years ago.

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Michel Paquette, another member of the city's infrastructure department who was also suspended, was allowed to return to work this week "after the city analyzed his file and took into account new evidence brought to our attention," the city's announcement said.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Les Perreaux joined the Montreal bureau of the Globe and Mail in 2008. He previously worked for the Canadian Press covering national and international affairs, including federal and Quebec politics and the war in Afghanistan. More

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