We tried to warn Harel: former party officials
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 | 6:17 PM ET
Two former officials with Vision Montreal say they tried to warn party leader Louise Harel about potential trouble with her lieutenant, Benoît Labonté.
Labonté resigned from his job as official opposition leader and then was kicked out of the party Sunday following reports of irregular fundraising activities while he was head of the party.
Vision Montreal leader Louise Harel is pictured with her former lieutenant, Benoît Labonté. (CBC)Harel insisted that she had been in the dark about Labonté's fundraising activities.
Officials with Vision Montreal have declined to comment on the allegations.
In an open letter published Wednesday in Le Devoir, former Vision Montreal director Robert Laramée and the former secretary-general of the party’s leadership race, Christine Hernandez, said Harel had rebuffed their attempts to contact her.
In the letter, the two said the party had set out clear rules for its leadership race in 2008, despite the fact it was not subject to regulation by the province’s chief electoral officer.
They said they fought hard to make sure the rules were respected, but that they had suspicions Labonté had set up a "parallel" fundraising system.
"We felt there were problems with Labonté's team during the leadership race, but we weren't direct witnesses to these irregularities or potential illegal or fraudulent activities," said Hernandez in an interview.
Hernandez said she and Laramée have been trying to contact Harel "for several months."
"What is regrettable is that Mrs. Harel doesn't even want to talk with people who reached out to her and said come talk with us."
Hernandez and Laramée both left Vision Montreal shortly after Labonté's election as leader.
After their departure, they said the party agreed to reimburse some of Labonté's expenses —– something they said should never have been agreed to.
Vision Montreal ended 2008 with a $85,000 deficit, despite having a $270,000 surplus the previous year.Former Vision Montreal director Robert Laramée co-wrote an open letter expressing his concerns to newspaper Le Devoir. (CBC)
Hernandez said she and Laramée wrote to Quebec's chief electoral officer Tuesday to offer their collaboration in any investigation.
They say the situation should open the debate on the rules regarding political leadership races.
Both Radio-Canada and the website RueFrontenac.com have alleged Labonté met with and accepted tens of thousands of dollars in donations from construction entrepreneurs including Tony Accurso, the man at the centre of the city’s water-meter scandal.
Mayor Gérald Tremblay cancelled the $355-million contract after a damning report by the city’s auditor general.
The auditor’s investigation was launched following revelations the city's former executive committee chairman Frank Zampino had vacationed aboard a yacht belonging to Accurso.
Accurso's company, Simard-Beaudry, was part of a consortium that was awarded the contract in 2007.
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