Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum has resigned in the wake of corruption charges being laid against him, although he maintains he is innocent.
"Being mayor of Montreal is not a task one can do while defending themselves against accusations of this nature. This is why I am resigning as mayor of Montreal," Applebaum said in a brief statement Tuesday afternoon, referring to the 14 charges he faces, including fraud and conspiracy.
"I have never taken a penny from anybody," said Applebaum, who took office in November, promising to combat corruption at city hall.
Applebaum was selected as mayor by Montreal city council Nov. 16, 2012, following the resignation of Gérald Tremblay amid allegations of corruption.
"I would like to tell Montrealers that I love them, that I understand their frustration and their cynicism with the political climate. I will do the best that I can to prove the accusations against me are unfounded," said Applebaum, adding that he will now be concentrating his energy on his defence, as well as his family.
On Monday, Applebaum left provincial police headquarters in a taxi without commenting to the media after his arrest on criminal charges that include:
- Fraud against the government.
- Breach of trust.
- Conspiracy and municipal corruption.
The province's anti-corruption unit, UPAC, said the charges relate to obtaining permission and political support for two real estate projects in Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough between 2006 and 2011, during which time Applebaum was the borough's mayor.
The head of the city's executive committee, Laurent Blanchard, said that Applebaum, who has been urged to resign by a number of politicians including Premier Pauline Marois, consulted with his lawyers before speaking.
He said the mayor is paying for legal representation himself and not using city lawyers.
The press secretary for the mayor, Jonathan Abecassis, told CBC reporter Steve Rukavina that he spoke to Applebaum Monday evening and he sounded tired and a bit overwhelmed.
The province and the majority of municipal councillors have said the city should select an interim mayor to serve until the next municipal election in November, rather than placing the city under trusteeship or advancing the date of the municipal election.
Jean-François Lisée, Quebec's minister responsible for the Montreal region, commended Applebaum for stepping down under the circumstances. He said he knew about the anti-corruption unit beginning an investigation in March, but was surprised that the mayor was implicated.
"At the time, we couldn’t say that today in three months someone would be under investigation or would be charged. It's not an optimal situation," said Lisée. "Montrealers have to look to the future now in regard to the governance and the recovery of the city."