Zampino challenges corruption commission evidence

The former head of Montreal's executive committee told the province's corruption commission that he has a problem with some of the evidence that has been presented related to his communications and meetings.

Ex-executive committee head calls contract interference claims 'totally false'

Frank Zampino denied all knowledge of a collusion scheme in city contracts. (Charbonneau commission)

The former head of Montreal's executive committee told the province's corruption commission that he has a problem with some of the evidence that has been presented related to his communications and meetings.

Frank Zampino again registered his dissatisfaction with electronic records that show phone calls made and meetings scheduled between himself and others that have been entered into evidence before the inquiry as commission lawyers try to establish timelines.

Zampino argued that he has been unable to verify certain dates and names that are entered in the records.

"Are you assuming that the documents have been tampered with?" Commission chair France Charbonneau asked Zampino.

"I believe there are entries that in no way reflect reality," Zampino responded, adding that a number of people have had access to the records during investigations into the Faubourg Contrecœur housing development and water meter scandal at city hall in the years since he left the city in 2008.

"I'll assure you right now, Mr. Zampino, there is nothing fraudulent or dishonest or any falsification or malfeasance that was committed on our part," Charbonneau shot back.

Zampino says he and his lawyers have been trying for years to get those documents back from the city so they can verify the information for themselves.

Collusion denial

  Zampino, who has now completed two days of testimony, touched briefly on some of the allegations that he was involved in a deep-rooted system of collusion at city hall for several years before he resigned his post.

Zampino denied any knowledge of that scheme as well as allegations that he interfered in the tendering and selection process of public works projects.

That assertion directly contradicts the testimony of the city's former head of real estate, who told the commission that Zampino was directly involved in what was supposed to be an independent selection process in one project involving city-owned land that was to be sold to the private sector. 

Joseph Farinacci testified in February that Zampino pushed for one company to win a project, contradicting the decision of a selection committee, because that company was "due" for a city contract.

Farinacci told the inquiry that he ultimately left his job because he had lost confidence in the administration.

Zampino responded to those allegations this morning, denying that he had any problem with the committee decision.

Recounting the meeting in question, Zampino said the only thing he mentioned was that the bid selected by the committee didn't conform to requirements, according to the information he was given by the district.

"It's totally false," he said of Farinacci's claims that he interfered in the process.

Zampino left municipal politics in 2008.

He is among several people facing criminal charges in connection with the Faubourg Contrecoeur project. He was arrested and charged with fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust in May of 2012.

That case is currently making its way through the court system and anything relating to it will be covered by a publication ban at the commission.

Trépanier's departure from Union Montréal

Zampino insisted that he knew nothing about Union Montréal fundraiser, and close friend, Bernard Trépanier losing his job with the party in Feburary 2006.

He only learned that the post had been eliminated several months after the fact, Zampino insisted.

"Mr. Trépanier is a very proud man and surely wouldn't want to tell me that he was fired," he said. "He presented it to me as, they eliminated his position and they offered him something else."

Bernard Trépanier testified in March that he was pulled into the mayor's office and told his job was being eliminated.
Just how and why Trépanier, the man many witnesses have described as the middleman in a collusion scheme involving city contracts, left the party quietly has been a topic of testimony from several witnesses at the commission.

Engineering executives, who described making illegal cash donations for the party to Trépanier in exchange for entry into an alleged bid-rigging arrangement, said they had no idea he left the party and continued to act in the same role for years after.

Marc Deschamps, Union Montréal's official agent, told the inquiry Trépanier was fired at Gérald Tremblay's request in 2006, but Deschamps said "he was just fired for show." 

Deschamps told the commission former mayor Tremblay called him in February 2006 to ask him to figure out how much it would cost to fire Trépanier, who was earning $82,000 annually at the time.

Deschamps said they made a unilateral decision to give Trépanier approximately four months' salary and a $25,000 severance package.

Trépanier himself told the commission he wasn't fired, but his job was eliminated in February 2006.

He told the commission that then-mayor Gerald Tremblay summoned him to his office and told Trépanier that the party was eliminating the job of director of fundraising.

Trépanier said he later heard rumours that he was actually cut because of allegations that he tried to extort $1 million from a developer or because of his close relationship with Zampino.

Trépanier told the commission that he went back to the mayor's office, and told his chief of staff that the extortion claim wasn't true. He said he then went to Zampino's office and later his house to explain that the allegations were false.

While he described a similar story, Zampino insisted that he, like everyone else, didn't know at the time that Trépanier had been let go.

"There was not one person who thought for a minute that Mr. Trépanier wasn't a member of the party," Zampino said. "He continued to work on fundraising activities."

What he did recall was a distraught Trépanier coming to his office and asking him to explain to the mayor that he didn't make the $1 million demand.

Zampino said he went to the mayor to restate Trépanier's side of the story, but his job status never came up.

"The mayor never told you [that incident] is why Mr. Trépanier's job was eliminated?" commission prosecutor Sonia LeBel asked.

"No, I didn't talk to the mayor about the elimination of his job," Zampino replied.