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Third Quebec mayor resigns amidst corruption allegations

Mascouche Mayor, Richard Marcotte, talks about the chances of L.A. Dodgers' pitcher Eric Gagne to win the Cy Young trophy in the National Baseball League Tuesday November 11, 2003.

Francois Roy/CP

Protesters and the provincial police waited at Montreal's Trudeau International Airport to greet Richard Marcotte when the suburban mayor returned from his Cuban vacation last April.

Three days earlier, a special anti-corruption squad had charged Mr. Marcotte and 13 others over allegations of kickbacks and fraud in public contracts in Mascouche, his rapidly growing bedroom community north of Montreal. After trying to tough out the storm, the embattled Mr. Marcotte has now become the third Quebec mayor forced out of office in the province's corruption furor.

Mr. Marcotte, 65, announced his resignation Friday in an interview in the local weekly, Le Trait d'union. He had initially refused to step down after the criminal charges and was greeted with boos from citizens when he occasionally showed up at city council.

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The Charbonneau inquiry into the construction industry heard this fall that Mascouche was one of several expanding suburbs where officials and well-connected engineering and building firms colluded. This resulted in controversial cost-gouging deals, such as a contract to clear snow from fire hydrants at $650 per hydrant.

In the Trait d'union interview, Mr. Marcotte said he was leaving because his son-in-law is ailing. However, he also acknowledged that he was concerned by upcoming provincial legislation. This month, the provincial government tabled Bill 10, which allows a judge to suspend municipal politicians charged with offences that could lead to sentences of two years or more.

"Bill 10 is clearly a politically motivated law and, from what I understand, it is constitutionally dodgy since it is only aimed at one type of elected official," Mr. Marcotte said in the interview.

Striking a defiant tone, he took credit for the city's growth during his years in power. "It's 22 years of my life I am leaving," he said. "What was Mascouche 22 years ago? I was the mastermind of the city's development."

The allegations against him concern events between 2005 and this year. Also charged in the probe, which police code-named Project Gravel, were construction magnates Antonio Accurso and Normand Trudel.

The Charbonneau inquiry heard two construction bosses, André Durocher and Lino Zambito, testify that they tried to bid for Mascouche projects but were warned by Mr. Trudel that they should desist because it was his turf. Mr. Durocher said his rival warned him that having the lowest bid wouldn't help because city officials would amend the tender until Mr. Trudel won the contract.

"Normand Trudel and Mayor Marcotte, it's the same people," Mr. Durocher said in his testimony.

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In addition to the criminal counts against him in the Mascouche affair, Mr. Accurso has been charged in a separate RCMP probe into allegations that he, another construction businessman and a federal government tax auditor conspired to evade tax on more than $3-million.

Earlier this fall, Montreal's mayor, Gérald Tremblay, stepped down after the Charbonneau inquiry heard allegations of that his party received kickbacks from construction firms.

Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt then quit after the anti-corruption police squad executed search warrants at his home, offices and bank safety boxes.

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