Montreal

Valérie Plante accuses Sue Montgomery of 'fabricating stories' and asking her to break law

Montreal's mayor is accusing the borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce of attributing “completely false and inaccurate statements” to her.

Côte-des-Neiges—NDG's borough mayor says Plante privately discredited content of comptroller's investigation

Borough Mayor Sue Montgomery, right, was one of Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante's star candidates in 2017. Now the two are at odds over a harassment investigation. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante is accusing a former close ally, Sue Montgomery, of attributing "completely false and inaccurate statements" to her.

The day after a tumultuous borough council meeting in Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Plante released a statement Tuesday that accuses Montgomery of making  comments that are "defamatory and go beyond the bounds of reality."

Plante is asking Montgomery, now an independent borough mayor, to retract her comments.

Montgomery was kicked out of Plante's Projet Montréal party on Jan. 24 for refusing to fire her chief of staff, Annalisa Harris, following a harassment investigation by the city's comptroller general.

At Monday's borough council meeting, the three remaining party members in the borough turned their backs on Montgomery, but the embattled politician didn't pull any punches as she defended her decision to keep Harris on staff. 

She said she will not fire Harris without due process, which includes having access to the comptroller general's report — a report that Montgomery said Plante knows is bogus.

Montgomery, a former journalist, went as far as quoting Plante as saying the comptroller's report is "bullshit." Her assertion drew gasps from the jam-packed council chamber.

Plante's office denied the accusation immediately after the meeting.

In her Tuesday statement, Plante goes on to say that Montgomery is asking her to release a confidential labour relations report, and that would be a violation of Canada's Privacy Act. 

"It is high time Ms. Montgomery stops fabricating stories and creating alternative facts," Plante says in the statement.

She said Montgomery has already received a formal notice from the city for her "defamatory comments."

Instead of going on a "personal crusade," Plante said, Montgomery should be doing "the job she was elected to do."

Montgomery's lawyer disputes claims

Montgomery's lawyer, Eric Oliver, told CBC News Tuesday that releasing the comptroller general's report would not be a violation of Canada's Privacy Act, as it involves borough employees.

The borough mayor is named in the report for "turning a blind eye" to the alleged psychological harassment and therefore is not being allowed access to the report, the city says. But Oliver said, even if that is true, sensitive sections or names can be redacted.

He said an employer cannot be expected to fire an employee without knowing why. Were the labour dispute to end up in court, Montgomery would have no way to justify her reasoning, Oliver said, because she has not seen the evidence.

Sue Montgomery, mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, listens as Coun. Magda Popeanu, a member of Projet Montréal, speaks during Monday night's council meeting. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

His law office, Municonseil avocats, sent a demand letter to the city's comptroller general Monday, insisting that the report be released. That latest move comes after Montgomery filed an access to information request to see the document last week.

Speaking to CBC Montreal's Daybreak Tuesday, Montgomery insisted that Plante used the term "bullshit" to describe the comptroller's report.

"She knows that she said that," Montgomery said. "We were speaking in English."

Montgomery said she is giving up her own and her chief of staff's right to privacy by asking Plante to compel the comptroller general to release that report in the name of transparency and accuracy.

So far, she said, the comptroller general is the only one to have seen it. 

"They can redact names," she said. "I think the citizens have the right to see what happened here, and I will do what's right — what's in the best interest of the residents and the employees — when I see the evidence."

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