Events that led to Montreal mayor resignation under new scrutiny
Published Thursday, January 24, 2013 4:02PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 24, 2013 11:24PM EST
MONTREAL -- New details have emerged about the events that led to the scandal-propelled resignation of Montreal's mayor last fall.
It turns out that the witness whose damning allegation at a public inquiry torpedoed the mayor's career did not originally share it with investigators because, he said, he thought it seemed "trivial."
That statement from former mayoral aide Martin Dumont came Thursday as he was back on the witness stand, nearly three months after he shared an anecdote that pushed his ex-boss Gerald Tremblay into political retirement.
Dumont's earlier testimony has been under attack since he admitted to making up another story during his appearance at the inquiry in October.
At the time, as Tremblay resigned in scandal, he vehemently denied Dumont's testimony and said he was eager to clear his name.
The former aide had testified that Tremblay was at a meeting in 2004 where he heard his party kept two sets of books -- one for legal purposes, and an accurate one for illicit cash. Dumont said the mayor promptly stood up and, declaring that he did not want to be involved in such a chat, left the room.
The claim severely damaged Tremblay's reputation, as he had spent years professing ignorance of any criminal activity within his Union Montreal party.
Provincial politicians began pressing Tremblay to resign. Within a few days, he was gone.
The inquiry heard Thursday that Dumont actually described the controversial 2004 meeting when he met investigators last Sept. 12 -- but he left out the mayor's presence.
He finally mentioned Tremblay when he met investigators a second time, the following month. He soon repeated the story publicly, on the stand, and the mayor quit days later.
Commission chair France Charbonneau questioned how Dumont could have forgotten to share that story the first time he met with investigators, on Sept. 12.
"Am I to understand that if you didn't mention this the first time it's because you found this incident trivial?" she asked Thursday.
Dumont replied, without hesitation: "Yes, it was trivial."
Asked bluntly, under cross-examination by the lawyer for the Union Montreal party, if he invented the story involving the mayor, Dumont maintained the testimony was true.
Lawyer Francois Dorval spent much of the morning attempting to poke holes in Dumont's testimony. His most serious strike was the revelation about Tremblay.
"When it is a fact that's as dramatic as revealing before the mayor that you're over-budget and the official agent produces a document talking about two sets of accounting to get around the law -- this is a detail you forgot?" an incredulous Dorval asked.
Concerns about Dumont's credibility have dominated the commission this week, since it returned from its holiday break.
Also, Dumont initially told investigators that he'd described to a colleague how he was threatened by a Mafia-linked businessman. He says the construction boss warned Dumont he'd be buried in concrete if he kept asking questions about inflated costs.
In a subsequent interview, Dumont had the name of that supposed colleague struck from the record. He has admitted to making up another story about a secretary who was forced to count illegal cash donations to Union Montreal.
Also, Dumont was questioned Thursday about his claim that a safe in party offices was stuffed so full of cash it wouldn't close.
Dorval produced a receipt showing that the safe was actually broken and that's why it wouldn't close.
Tremblay cannot be reached for comment through his former spokesman. But he is expected to respond on the inquiry witness stand.