For years they were the two most powerful men at Montreal city hall and they both have much explaining to do.
Former mayor Gérald Tremblay and his onetime right-hand man, Frank Zampino, are expected to be the next witnesses at the Charbonneau inquiry into corruption in the Quebec construction industry. The men will cap the Montreal phase of the inquiry, which has exposed how hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on construction projects were diverted to inflated contracts, mob kickbacks, bribes to public officials and illegal political financing.
Mr. Zampino’s name has come up most frequently and he faces a criminal trial on a host of corruption charges. Mr. Tremblay has never been accused of criminal wrongdoing. However, he has long been criticized for taking a “hear-no-evil, see-no-evil” approach to the corrupt practices that permeated his administration.
Here is a sample of the questions the two men are likely to face.
What did you know about off-the-books, cash party fundraising and campaign spending?
In testimony that led directly to Mr. Tremblay’s resignation last fall, former Union Montréal organizer Martin Dumont said Mr. Tremblay was in a meeting where official agent Marc Deschamps proffered two budgets for a by-election campaign in 2004. One budget was the official one, the other the cash-only spending plan that would be hidden from electoral overseers. Mr. Deschamps testified the meeting never took place, and Mr. Tremblay also denied it had when he resigned. Mr. Dumont’s credibility was later damaged when other inconsistencies and falsehoods were found in his testimony.
Why did you fire your chief fundraiser over unethical conduct in 2006 and then allow him to carry on raking in millions in an unofficial capacity over several more years?
In 2006, Mr. Tremblay fired Union Montréal fundraiser Bernard Trépanier because, witnesses say, he was too close to Mr. Zampino and because of a shakedown he attempted on a local business. Mr. Trépanier left Union Montréal headquarters and opened his own office not far away. He proceeded to raise millions more for the party, although some witnesses have suggested Mr. Trépanier was pocketing the money.
During most of your time as mayor from 2002 to 2012, the city’s construction business was controlled by a small cartel of companies that inflated prices while spreading kickbacks to your party, the mob and your city officials. What did you know? Why didn’t you act decisively to break it up?
Mr. Tremblay has denied knowing much about what went on under his watch, and maintains that when he did learn of wrongdoing, he acted, demanding resignations, cancelling the odd contract and sending information to police. However, little oversight seemed to take place before journalist investigations pushed him to act. Several witnesses have described how Frank Zampino, Mr. Tremblay’s second-in-command, insulated the mayor from dirty dealings at city hall.
What were you doing on Tony Accurso’s yacht?
Just before city hall awarded a $356-million water-meter contract to a consortium that included one of Mr. Accurso’s firms, Mr. Zampino made two trips to Mr. Accurso’s luxury vessel, The Touch, which was moored in the Caribbean. The contract was awarded in 2007 in a process an auditor would later describe as “too big, too fast, too expensive.” Mr. Accurso, one of the dominant players in construction in Quebec, was described at the inquiry as a top figure in the system of collusion that ran public construction contracts in the city and province. Mr. Accurso and his lavish yacht became the catalyst that turned Quebec’s simmering outrage over corruption into a boil.
Why were the city’s director of purchasing, head of administrative services and the city manager all fired or transferred to other jobs in early 2006?
Serge Pourreaux, the former head of purchasing, had taken note of Montreal’s vast cost overruns in 2005, and come up with a plan for a crackdown. Within months, his immediate superiors who had signed off on his plan, including city manager Robert Abdallah, were replaced, and he was pushed out of his job. “It was a putsch,” Mr. Pourreaux testified last month. “There aren’t too many people who can toss out a city manager. It’s either the mayor (Mr. Tremblay) or the head of the executive committee (Mr. Zampino.) They threw out the three people who were pushing this matter.”