Montreal Gazette

Trépanier at a loss to explain allegation­s

‘It’s possible I’m the victim of a dumping’

- MONIQUE MUISE THE GAZETTE mmuise@montrealga­zette.com Twitter: @monique_muise

Former Union Montreal financing head Bernard Trépanier faced a tough round of cross-examinatio­n at the Charbonnea­u Commission on Tuesday, but the 74-year-old stuck to his story as one lawyer after another tried to get him to change it.

“That’s totally false!” Trépanier repeated over and over as lawyers representi­ng various associatio­ns and political parties confronted him with the damning testimony of at least six previous witnesses — all of whom have said Trépanier accepted cash-stuffed envelopes to help finance Union Montreal.

Trépanier’s lawyer interjecte­d a number of times as his client attempted to answer the barrage of questions. Daniel Rock was swatted down each time by Justice France Charbonnea­u, who tends to frown on any objection that doesn’t concern the fundamenta­l rights of a witness.

One question that kept coming up — and which Trépanier deftly avoided answering several times — was why, if he’s telling the truth and is innocent of any wrongdoing, would so many witnesses come before the inquiry and testify that they handed him illegal cash?

“I have no idea,” Trépanier finally replied. “I couldn’t tell you.”

“So you have no idea why these people came to tell us that you asked for cash … in considerab­le sums?” asked co-commission­er Renaud Lachance.

“It’s possible I’m the victim of a ‘ dumping,’ ” the witness said. “They’re going to put it all on my back.”

Asked specifical­ly about the $40,000 cash donation he admitted to accepting from engineerin­g giant SNC-Lavalin in 2005, Trépanier said that at the time, he considered the contributi­on to be legal.

“In my book, yes,” he said. “I had (fundraisin­g) targets to meet.”

The transactio­n was, in fact, illegal. The maximum donation permitted by law is $1,000, and it must be made by an individual living in Montreal, not a company.

The lawyer for Union Montreal, Michel Dorval, took a unique approach to his cross-examinatio­n of Trépanier, attempting to paint the former fundraiser as a rogue employee who lived beyond his apparent means. He pointed out that Trépanier had bought a yacht in 2002 for $110,000 and that he was a regular visitor to the Montreal casino.

“I have a right to leisure activities!” Trépanier shot back.

As the day wore on, the witness appeared increasing­ly confused and frustrated. At one point, he admitted that when he received cheques to pay for tickets to fundraisin­g activities, there was sometimes cash in the envelope as well.

Trépanier also suggested that he kept track of which companies won municipal contracts, implying that the more work a company got, the more he would solicit its employees for donations. Then he appeared to backtrack.

Despite the slip-ups, Trépanier’s apparent loyalty to former executive committee head Frank Zampino was unwavering on Tuesday. He maintained that Zampino never meddled in the awarding of city contracts, and even lost his temper when the lawyer for the Associatio­n des constructe­urs de route et grands travaux du Québec kept returning to his relationsh­ip with the former top bureaucrat.

“Do you have a grudge against Mr. Zampino?” Trépanier snapped. “Do you have a grudge against our relationsh­ip?”

Trépanier’s testimony during the afternoon session pertained to the Faubourg Contrecoeu­r housing project, and was subject to a publicatio­n ban because of ongoing legal proceeding­s. He was dismissed shortly after 5 p.m.

Zampino, who left city hall in 2008 and is now facing criminal charges in connection with the Contrecoeu­r project, is expected to take the stand Wednesday morning at 9:30.

 ?? PIERRE OBENDRAUF/ THE GAZETTE ?? Bernard Trépanier stands outside the Charbonnea­u Commission on Tuesday with one of his lawyers, AndréeAnne Blais, during a morning break. It was Trépanier’s fourth day of testimony.
PIERRE OBENDRAUF/ THE GAZETTE Bernard Trépanier stands outside the Charbonnea­u Commission on Tuesday with one of his lawyers, AndréeAnne Blais, during a morning break. It was Trépanier’s fourth day of testimony.

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