Another mayor of one of Quebec’s troubled cities has resigned, but this time allegations of sexual misconduct, not corruption, have ended a political career.
Alexandre Duplessis, the interim mayor who took over after corruption charges brought down long-time mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, stepped down suddenly Friday afternoon amid allegations he tried to solicit a prostitute and refused to pay the bill after the encounter went badly, leading to a police investigation of attempted extortion against two women.
The resignation came six hours after a Friday news conference where Mr. Duplessis insisted he would not resign “just because of an extortion attempt.”
During the intervening hours, the alleged head of the escort service, speaking on condition of anonymity to the TVA network, shared dozens of text messages sent from Mr. Duplessis’s cellphone number soliciting services for a “30-year-old, 5-foot-8, 130-pound, 34 DD, blond with green eyes.”
“Will she be dressed sexily? High heels?” read the text messages TVA said were from the mayor’s cell number. “Can I wear women’s underwear?”
The woman said she decided to come forward after Mr. Duplessis’s denials. The resignation of the 42-year-old father of two was welcomed with incredulity in Laval.
“It’s not the sex or criminal allegations, it’s the fact he put himself in such a vulnerable position,” said Marc Demers, a retired police officer who plans to run for mayor during the general election in November.
City council will select a new interim mayor, meaning Montreal and its biggest suburb, Laval, will have had a combined six mayors in less than eight months.
At Laval City Hall, some councillors suggested the city should just go without a mayor until elections. Others said nobody even wants the job any more. Basile Angelopoulos, the vice-chair of the city’s executive committee, said some councillors have expressed interest and a vote will take place. “It’s not an easy moment, and these are events that make us all sad,” he said.
Mr. Duplessis admitted Friday he lodged a criminal complaint against two women after, he says, they attempted to extort money from him during a series of encounters starting June 14. The Surêté du Québec would not confirm Mr. Duplessis’s identity, but confirmed a man who was trying to use an escort service had lodged an extortion complaint.
Mr. Duplessis insisted nothing sexual took place between him and the women who were arrested, but have not been formally charged with any crime. “I never received anything of a sexual character, I never had any favours of a sexual nature … people attempted to extort me,” he said.
“People say all kinds of insidious, hateful things to me. As a public person, I’m called into all kinds of situations.”
The head of the escort service says the women were simply trying to collect $150 for the hour the escort had spent at Mr. Duplessis’s cottage in the Laurentian mountains.
Mr. Duplessis’s powers were limited as mayor because Laval was under the trusteeship of the province until the next municipal elections. In addition to charges of corruption and gangsterism against Mr. Vaillancourt, the trusteeship was imposed after the Charbonneau commission heard testimony that much of city council, including Mr. Duplessis, was implicated in a scheme to collect illegal campaign donations.
Montreal has also gone through three mayors in a matter of months. Gérald Tremblay resigned under pressure because of the breathtaking scope of corruption that took place under his watch during his 10 years as mayor. Michael Applebaum resigned last week after he was arrested and charged with fraud.
The new interim Montreal mayor, Laurent Blanchard, officially took office Friday promising to bring “serenity” to city hall.