Montreal's mayor resigns, calls allegations unfounded
Published Tuesday, June 18, 2013 8:23AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 18, 2013 4:46PM EDT
Montreal’s interim mayor Michael Applebaum has announced his resignation, a move that comes just one day after he was arrested on corruption and conspiracy charges.
Applebaum announced he is stepping down during a brief news conference on Tuesday, where he maintained the accusations against him are false.
“I have a profound conviction that I have always worked in the best interest of Montrealers,” he said. “I will do everything I can to prove the accusations against me are unfounded.”
He added that he will be putting his energy into his defence and his family.
“I cannot comment on the different accusations and the different rumours, but I have every intention of continuing to fight,” he said. “I want to be clear that I’ve never taken a penny from anybody.”
Applebaum acknowledged that seven months ago he campaigned on a promise to clean up city hall.
“I understand (Montrealers’) frustration and their cynicism with the political climate of the last few years,” he said. “I swore that I would erase the stains from the reputation of our city, that I would do everything to protect it, and in the last few months, I have accomplished a lot to put Montreal back on the right track.”
Still, Applebaum said that resigning was the “responsible thing to do” amid the ongoing police investigation.
He did not take any questions after his statement.
A number of Applebaum's former allies, along with Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, had called for his immediate resignation after the interim mayor was arrested early Monday morning. He faces 14 charges, including fraud, conspiracy, breach of trust, and corruption in municipal affairs.
Applebaum's resignation will likely affect whether early mayoral elections are held, or if another interim mayor is selected to replace him.
He had already said he will not run in the upcoming municipal election set for November.
The charges, investigators said, are related to two real-estate projects that took place between 2006 and 2011, before Applebaum became mayor.
"These were bribes that influenced a decision, approvals or permit distribution," Unite permanente anticorruption commissioner Robert Lafreniere said at a press conference announcing the arrests Monday.
Police said the transactions being investigated were worth "several hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Applebaum spent nearly 10 hours at the provincial police headquarters on Monday.
Two other Montreal-area public figures were also arrested Monday: Jean Yves Bisson, a former director of permits who worked in Applebaum's west end borough, and Saulie Zajdel, who worked in a ministerial office for the federal Conservatives on ethnic outreach. Zajdel was charged with breach of trust, fraud and corruption.
Applebaum was elected interim mayor of Montreal after former mayor Gerald Tremblay resigned when a witness at a corruption inquiry said he turned a blind eye to illegal financing in his now-defunct political party.
Montreal city hall was raided by UPAC investigators last February, in a sweep that also targeted municipal offices in various boroughs of the city -- including the one Applebaum represented as a councillor for many years.
Gilles Vaillancourt, the former long-time mayor of nearby Laval, was also arrested in a sweep last month and charged with fraud and gangsterism.