Mascouche calls on government to oust mayor

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City councillors in Mascouche are pleading with Quebec's minister of municipal affairs to help them get rid of their mayor, Richard Marcotte.

Marcotte is facing charges of fraud and corruption. Though he has been banned by his own party, he continues to collect a salary.

Leader of the opposition Vision démocratique Mascouche Party, Stephane Handfield, said provincial Municipal Affairs Minister Laurent Lessard has been asked to step in and suspend the mayor's term. But so far, Lessard has not responded to the cry for help.

Councillors are now consulting lawyers to see if they can challenge Marcotte's term.

Marcotte appeared at a town council meeting on Monday for the first time in three months, but he stayed for just a short time before being booed out by constituents.

Coun. Serge Hamelin said residents have lost confidence in Marcotte, and they want him out.

"Everybody in Quebec, when you talk about Mascouche, they start to laugh," he said.

"The reputation in Mascouche is bad because of him."

More than 200 residents took to the streets on Sunday, demanding Marcotte's resignation.

Legally, town mayors must attend meetings every 90 days at the least. This has people wondering if Marcotte's five-minute appearance at Monday's council meeting was enough to retain his position.

Marcotte told reporters he did not plan on leaving his position and was fulfilling his tasks as mayor by showing up at the meeting.

Corruption investigation

Marcotte was among 17 people arrested in April in a province-wide anti-corruption operation.

The investigation started in October 2010 when two witnesses came forward with information about the attribution of contracts by the City of Mascouche, according to Quebec provincial police.

It led to raids at eight locations, including Mascouche City Hall and Marcotte's home.

He was arrested as he returned to Montreal from Cuba and was charged with fraud, breach of trust, corruption and conspiracy.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Criticized by ministry

On July 5, Quebec's municipal affairs ministry tabled a damning report on the awarding of contracts in Mascouche between January 2009 and October 2010.

An auditor working for the ministry blamed Marcotte's administration for not respecting the province's laws, pointing to two contracts for more than $100,000 that were awarded without a call for tenders.

In 2010, Marcotte was the subject of conflict of interest accusations after a Radio-Canada investigation uncovered evidence suggesting he had obtained personal benefits in exchange for municipal contracts.

Marcotte has sat as an Independent on Mascouche council since he was kicked out of his party the same year.

In 2011, he was expelled from the Quebec Federation of Municipalities' board of directors.

Marcotte, who was first elected mayor in 1991, has denied any wrongdoing. He was released on bail as he awaits his trial.

Before Monday's meeting, Hamelin said if the mayor were to attend, he would expect a lot of anger and tough questions.

The current council's term ends in 2013.