08/30/2013 06:24 EDT | Updated 10/30/2013 05:12 EDT

Ex-city councillor suspected of lobbying in compost land deal

A new composting centre projected for the borough of St-Laurent is the latest municipal project raising questions about lobbying.

Josée Duplessis, the president of the city’s executive committee, said she was concerned when she learned a former city councillor, Saulie Zajdel, was apparently representing the landowner.

City council president Harout Chitilian also had concerns about possible lobbying.

Last fall, he noticed the former Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce councillor at several public consultations about the composting centre. He found it strange and alerted Duplessis.

“Ex-politicians have additional prerogatives to respect when they do this kind of activity. There’s certain elements of the law put in place, a grace period where they cannot come and solicit their ex-colleagues on specific dossiers,” he said.

“We’re very, very vigilant with lobbying, especially these days. We want to have a very strict standard for ethics and lobbying,” he added.

Duplessis said she immediately contacted Quebec’s anti-corruption squad, UPAC, to look into the matter.

Her letter to police allegedly stated that Zajdel had several conversations with St-Laurent mayor Alan DeSousa — something DeSousa categorically denies.

“I personally had no contact other than a handshake with Mr. Zajdel,” he said during a news conference.

DeSousa continued, saying no meeting between him and Zajdel regarding the project ever took place.

Zajdel, 57, was on Montreal city council for 23 years before retiring in 2009. He also ran for the Conservatives in the 2011 election, narrowly losing the riding of Mount-Royal to Liberal incumbent Irwin Cotler.

After the election, Zajdel was put on payroll in a minister’s office to work on ethnic outreach.

He was arrested in June on charges of bribery, breach of trust, fraud and corruption linked to activities that allegedly took place between Jan. 1, 2007 and Dec. 31, 2008.

Zajdel could not be reached for comment.