ST-REMI, Que. - A small-town mayor in Quebec was slapped with fraud charges Friday, in the latest ignominious twist in this annus horribilis for burg bosses.
Quebec's anti-corruption squad arrested the mayor of St-Remi, just south of Montreal. In a release issued this morning, the squad's commissioner confirms the arrest of Michel Lavoie, 58, on charges of fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust.
It was one more blow in a year that saw Canadian mayors from London to Laval sustain political or legal canings, with careers and reputations taking a drubbing.
Toronto's mayor was ordered out of office by a judge in a conflict-of-interest case; the mayors of Laval and Montreal left amid corruption scandals; the mayor of London, Ont., hung on to his job despite a fraud charge; the ex-mayor of a Montreal borough and the mayor of Mascouche, Que., face a variety of charges, with the latter recently succumbing to the numerous demands that he resign.
A similar story is now playing out in sleepy St-Remi, a semi-rural community of roughly 7,000 on the outer edges of the suburban belt around Montreal.
The police squad alleges Lavoie used his influence as mayor to ensure that projects in the city were developed and built by his close friends, relatives and business partners.
It's alleged he modified zoning regulations, altered requests for proposals and circumvented contract allocation rules.
"(Our) role is to fight against these reprehensible acts that jeopardize the stability of local economies," said Robert Lafreniere, the commissioner of the police squad.
"Breach of trust and fraud are criminal acts that have heavy consequences as much for the actors involved in illegal machinations as for citizens who pay the price."
Fraud and conspiracy charges have also been laid against Sebastien Lavoie, 36, whom media reports identify as the mayor's son.
Another man, Dominic Dorais, is charged with fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust, while a construction company bearing his name is charged with fraud.