10/31/2012 12:39 EDT | Updated 12/31/2012 05:12 EST

Union Montreal councillor quits party over corruption allegations

A city councillor elected under Mayor Gérald Tremblay's Union Montréal banner has also turned his back on his party in the wake of corruption allegations launched against high ranking members at the Charbonneau commission.

"It's time for me as a city councillor to step down as a member of caucus of a political party in a way to well serve the citizens of St-Michel and all Montrealers," Frantz Benjamin, who has not been implicated in any of the allegations made before the commission, told CBC's Daybreak this morning.

He is the first member of the party to quit since allegations of kickbacks and financing irregularities started surfacing several weeks ago in testimony given at the commission.

Benjamin's announcement came on the same day that a former organizer for the party testified at the commission that Tremblay was aware of illegal campaign financing allegedly going on within Union Montréal dating back to 2004.

Tremblay has denied any wrongdoing, as has Frank Zampino, the former head of the city's executive committee, who, the commission heard in testimony this week, allegedly cut a deal with a developer to sell city land at a fraction of the value for the Faubourg Contrecoeur project.

Zampino issued a statement through his lawyer yesterday saying the allegations were false.

Tremblay has refused to comment specifically on the testimony. On several occasions, he has implored Montrealers to wait until the commission has finished its work before passing judgment.

Union Montréal lawyer, Michel Dorval, said he has made a formal request for Tremblay to give his own testimony, but no date has been made public.

CSN asks Tremblay to step down

Quebec's biggest public sector union is adding its voice to the growing call for Tremblay's resignation.

Gaétan Châteaneuf, head of the CSN's Central Montreal Council, asked for Tremblay to step down in a statement released today.

"Gérald Tremblay no longer has the credibility and the confidence necessary to lead the Montreal mayor's office," Châteaneuf said.

Union Montreal councillor to sit as independent

Benjamin was elected in 2009 in the St-Michel district and said he never witnessed any wrongdoing at city hall.

He said the vast majority of elected officials at Union Montréal are honest and urged Montrealers not to lump them all in the same pile.

However, the allegations made public at the commission need to be taken seriously and merit a response, he said.

Benjamin said the mayor should quickly address those claims, but stopped short of saying Tremblay should step down.

"I think Union Montréal has to answer to the Montrealers," he said.

Now an independent, Benjamin also didn't go as far as to say he'd vote against his former party's budget, presented yesterday, which includes a 3.3 per cent average increase in property taxes.

The councillor said wants to work with Union Montréal to make improvements to the proposal.