MONTREAL – Quebec’s corruption inquiry is hearing from a former Montreal executive committee chairman.
Frank Zampino was the city’s No. 2 for several years before leaving the post and the Union Montreal party in 2008.
Zampino has frequently been mentioned at the inquiry as being close to various players involved in corruption.
One witness, Rosaire Sauriol of the engineering firm Dessau, described Zampino as ”the most powerful man in Montreal.”
Witnesses at the inquiry have described how companies inflated the cost of public projects and divided up the extra cash among the Mafia, corrupt bureaucrats and Union Montreal, Zampino’s old party.
Zampino, a chartered accountant, is now facing criminal fraud charges stemming from a city land deal.
The longtime municipal politician appeared relaxed and confident as he began his testimony.
He says he got into politics in 1986 purely by chance after being approached to run as a councillor. In 1990, he became mayor of Saint-Leonard, a former town that is now a borough. He was then acclaimed in 1994 and 1998.
He ended up spending 22 years in municipal politics in Montreal and Saint-Leonard.
He became involved in Montreal politics in 2001, when the province merged small cities into a megacity. Zampino says he wasn’t in favour.
That’s when he decided to get onboard with Gerald Tremblay, who wanted to be mayor of Montreal.
When the questions briefly turned to electoral financing, Zampino said he was unaware of the existence of “turn-key” elections when he started in politics. He said he learned of them through the papers.
So-called “turn-key” elections occur when companies provide everything and candidates step right into their privately financed campaign operation in exchange for post-election favours for the firms.
The witness before Zampino, ex-party fundraiser Bernard Trepanier, said that type of election financing was the norm. Trepanier and Zampino are close friends.
Zampino’s comments were met with skepticism from commission counsel Sonia LeBel.