City manager Guy Hébert has been forced to resign over accusations that he tried to get the provincial government to fire the chief of police in yet another political crisis to shake the City of Montreal.
The resignation came within a few hours after Mr. Hébert held a news conference emphatically denying he wanted Chief Marc Parent fired.
The Montreal daily La Presse reported last week that Mr. Hébert locked horns with Chief Parent after learning that he had launched an investigation into possible irregularities in the city's awarding of a $42-million contract to install a police communications network.
Mr. Hébert repudiated the news story on Monday and insisted he made no attempt to intervene on behalf of the city with the Ministry of Public Security to get rid of Chief Parent
After Mr. Hébert's denial during the news conference, the Ministry of Public Security immediately contradicted his account of the events. The ministry confirmed that two weeks ago Mr. Hébert did in fact contact the deputy minister of Public Security, Martin Prud'homme, and asked that Chief Parent be dismissed. At the time, Mr. Hébert accused Chief Parent of being a poor manager of the police department.
"We knew there was a lot in-fighting going on at city hall and we didn't want any part of it, so we said no," said Jacqueline Aubé, press secretary to Minister of Public Security Stéphane Bergeron. "When we heard Mr. Hébert deny he had asked us for the resignation …we had no choice but to say he wasn't telling the truth."
In light of the ministry's comments, Mayor Michael Applebaum immediately called the minister to confirm his version of events. He then asked for Mr. Hébert's resignation. "I asked him to step down as city manager and he has accepted," Mr. Applebaum said in a news conference.
Louise Harel, opposition leader at city hall, said she couldn't believe that Mr. Hébert would interfere with the management of the police force.
"It is completely unbelievable, unacceptable," Ms. Harel said in a news conference. "It's interference and moreover he lied to us. He has to resign."
This latest event underscored the deep political crisis afflicting Montreal ever since former mayor Gérald Tremblay resigned last November. According to testimony before the Charbonneau Commission into corruption, the awarding of government contracts and the financing of political parties, Mr. Tremblay was allegedly involved in illegal fundraising schemes. Testimony showed that construction companies with ties to organized crime fixed prices on lucrative municipal contracts they obtained in return for kickbacks to Mr. Tremblay's municipal party, Union Montréal.
News reports also alleged that Mr. Applebaum was involved in a questionable land transaction when he was mayor of the Montreal borough of Notre-Dame-de Grâce. He denied any wrongdoing but the story cast another shadow of suspicion over city hall.
The events that unfolded on Monday involving Mr. Hébert will likely increase the apprehensions and mistrust a growing number of residents have expressed in public opinion polls over the way their city has been managed.
The next municipal election will held Nov. 3.