The Quebec government is refusing to put into trusteeship a suburban municipality north of Montreal whose mayor faces criminal charges, Municipal Affairs Minister Sylvain Gaudreault said Wednesday.
Gaudreault said he understands the frustration of residents, many of whom are in uproar against their civic administration, but it's not possible under current laws for the province to take over the city's affairs.
"I'm in the obligation to act with the law, and we are in work with the ministry to improve the law in the future," Gaudreault said.
Recent Mascouche city council meetings have descended into heckling and tumult — when Mayor Richard Marcotte shows up. He skipped Tuesday night's meeting, affirming that he didn't want to have to confront "agitators" seeking to put on a "political show," and it proceeded calmly.
Marcotte was arrested in April on six criminal charges stemming from the provincial anti-corruption task force's investigations into allegations of conflict of interest and other irregularities in the awarding of municipal contracts.
Among the allegations, which have not been proven in court, is that a company called Mascouche Transport and Excavation — which received contracts from the city worth nearly $40 million in 2008 and 2009 — did millions of dollars in free work on Marcotte's home. The company has had financial backing from construction entrepreneur Tony Accurso, who himself is charged with 12 counts of fraud, forgery, conspiracy, breach of trust and municipal corruption.
Marcotte has been kicked out of his political party and booed out of meetings, but so far has refused to resign, inflaming some of his constituents.
Deputy mayor doesn't want trusteeship
Previous Mascouche city council meetings have turned chaotic when the mayor attends, with residents trying to confront him and force him to answer questions about the alleged corruption. He has to be escorted to and from the meetings by a corps of local police, at a cost of more than $5,000 per meeting.
A city council meeting in late August had to be shut down because of the unrest.
Mascouche's deputy mayor, Lise Gagnon, said despite the municipal administration's problems, putting the city into trusteeship would be the wrong move.
"No one asked councillors, 'How do you feel about this, about what's going on in Mascouche?' Never. It was total silence. And then, all of a sudden, we read in the newspaper that [the government] wants to put the city under trusteeship," Gagnon said.