Suspended city staffer says he didn't notice contract inflation

Yves Themens told the province's corruption inquiry this morning that he only learned of ballooning contract costs through media reports.

Themens says he accepted wine, tickets from construction bosses but no cash

Yves Themens was suspended with two other city employees after he was named in testimony before the commission. (Radio-Canada)

A suspended public works department engineer says he never noticed double digit increases in the cost of construction in the mid-2000s at the City of Montreal.

Yves Themens told the province's corruption inquiry this morning that his job was to make sure that the paperwork for infrastructure projects was filled out correctly.

He said that meant looking at the numbers and making sure they added up before he signed off and they went to another supervisor.

Themens said his job was not to check if the prices were ballooning. It was only through media reports that people inside the public works department started realizing there was a problem with the contracts, he testified.

He said at one point one of his supervisors called him in on the weekend to verify that the information being reported by the media was accurate.

It was at that point that the city realized the extent of the problem and brought in outside engineering firms to validate future contracts with companies doing business with the city, he said.

Like his colleagues who have already testified before the commission, Themens admitted to accepting gifts from construction firms who were bidding on and winning the inflated contracts.

He said he played golf on the dime of Lino Zambito at least two times and accepted hockey tickets from several companies.

He also recalled bottles of wine being sent to his office around Christmas time from the companies and admitted to accepting a bottle of cognac from B.P. Asphalte Inc.

Themens said he didn't drink wine, so he'd break the bottles out for employee lunches.

He said he didn't discuss where the wine came from.

No opportunity to inflate contracts, Themens says

Themens said his work as the head of planning had little impact on the business of the entrepreneurs so he really had no opportunity for favoritism in the awarding of contracts or inflating costs.

"My work was administrative," he said.

He also recounted a golfing trip in Cuba taken with his city colleagues and Tony Conte of Conex Construction. He said everyone paid their own way on the five day trip.

Themens was one of three city employees suspended in October after they were named by Zambito in his testimony before the Charbonneau commission.

Contrary to the testimony of his colleague, Themens said he never received cash from any of the businessmen.

 He said that gifts stopped in 2009 when new employee conduct rules were implemented.