Chambly citizens group wants their city to be put under trusteeship

A group of citizens and city councillors in Chambly is asking the provincial government to place the small city under trusteeship.

Letter, a joint effort with the opposition at city hall, follows allegations of bullying and threats by mayor

Chambly Coun. Alexandra Labbé says the demolition of the historic Maison Boileau was the 'last straw' before asking for trusteeship. (René Saint-Louis/Radio-Canada)

A group of citizens and city councillors in Chambly is asking the Quebec government to place the city under trusteeship. 

Démocratie Chambly, the opposition at city hall, and the citizens group Mouvement Citoyen Chambly have sent a letter to Municipal Affairs Minister Andrée Laforest, calling on her to carry out a full review of how the community of nearly 29,000 is managed.

Their letter comes after allegations of misconduct against Mayor Denis Lavoie.

The opposition and citizens group alleges the mayor and his administration have sent a total of 28 legal notices to citizens since he was elected in 2005.

"It's a form of intimidation," Julie Daigneault, president of the citizens group, said in a phone interview Tuesday. 

"It's a threat because very [few] people have the means to defend themselves, and so they prefer to retract themselves, to silence themselves."

Last month, a Radio-Canada Enquête investigation revealed a recording of Lavoie using abusive language while demanding his daughter's soccer coach be fired.

He is also believed to be dating the head of the city's human resources team — which some say is a conflict of interest. 

The report also uncovered allegations of threats, bullying and abuses of power by Lavoie.

In response to the Enquête story, Lavoie penned a letter, titled "I am proud of our management in Chambly," defending his actions. It was published in a local newspaper.

Denis Lavoie has been mayor of Chambly since 2005. Citizens and colleagues have accused him of abusing his power.

The minister has already asked Quebec's Municipal Commission to examine some of the mayor's actions.

But Alexandra Labbé, an opposition city councillor, says that won't go far enough because the issues are about people other than elected officials, and she says they are the only ones the minister can investigate. 

"There's also a problem with some of the administrative staff, and there's also a problem with the way some of the contracts are given, the way the money of the citizens is spent," she said. 

"There's a lot of shadows that need to be lifted."

No explanations

The day the Enquête report aired in November, the historic Maison Boileau home in Chambly was torn down without warning. 

"It was the last straw," Labbé said. She said Lavoie was re-elected this year on a promise to save the 200-year-old home. ​

She said people were hoping for explanations about their concerns — the demolition, the legal letters, the bullying allegations — at the Dec. 4 city council meeting. 

"And what we saw is actually nothing, so that makes us think there might be more" that the administration is hiding, she said. 

Laforest's office has yet to respond to the demand for trusteeship and did not immediately return a request for comment.