At the inquiry on Thursday, a crooked Montreal civil servant says it would have been difficult for any honest supervisor to catch him because he was so good at doctoring contracts.

The now-retired city engineer, Luc Leclerc, told a public inquiry Thursday that he was adept at manipulating construction contracts to inflate the final price tag awarded to companies that had given him kickbacks.

Leclerc said he always hid the phony expenses behind legitimate unexpected costs that popped up over the course of a project.

He has been less apologetic while testifying than another colleague who repeatedly expressed remorse for what he had done. Between the two of them, they pocketed more than $1.2 million in kickbacks from construction companies that benefited from rigged bids.

Leclerc illustrated his attitude with an anecdote.

He described how some companies were unhappy when a new player, Lino Zambito and his Infrabec company, arrived on the scene a little over a decade ago. He said he joked with Zambito that he had the power to make life difficult for him — to keep him from winning contracts and diluting the spoils for everyone else.

Of course, Leclerc said, he didn't do that in the end.

"I never made life difficult for anyone," Leclerc said.

"On the contrary, I had a reputation for offering five-star service."

Leclerc has already admitted to pocketing more than $500,000 from companies — in addition to vacations, hockey tickets, wine, Christmas baskets, ham, and home renovation work.

He has described a golf vacation with the head of Canada's most powerful Mafia family, Vito Rizzuto, and described the don as a charming and funny travel companion.

Mayor takes a break

Leclerc's second day on the witness stand came as word spread that Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay was taking a break to reflect on the events of the past few days.

Earlier this week, a former organizer with his Union Montréal party testified before the commission that Tremblay was aware of illegal campaign financing within the party dating back to 2004, but turned a blind eye to the activities.

Tremblay has publicly denied any wrongdoing. He had already cancelled and postponed planned events scheduled for this week.

A Leger poll commissioned by the Journal de Montreal newspaper and published Thursday showed 76 per cent of respondents think Tremblay should quit his post.

Another 14 per cent of those polled said they didn't know if he should leave or stay.

The online poll was conducted on Wednesday and had 629 respondents.

Tremblay had previously said he was committed to serving out his mandate, which expires at next fall's municipal election.

With files from CBC News