MONTREAL – A former senior supervisor at Montreal city hall is being forced to defend hundreds of phone conversations he had with different construction company bosses.
When confronted with the information at a corruption inquiry Tuesday, the onetime head of the municipality’s public works division said he wasn’t helping the companies collude on contracts.
Robert Marcil said he maintained business relationships with several high-ranking construction bosses, but the 2008 and 2009 calls were perfectly legitimate — even if he couldn’t remember the topics.
Records showed that Marcil visited one contractor on the same day that he told employees about the city’s new code of ethics in 2009.
Marcil said he might have been “negligent” when it came to respecting the code, but he maintained his innocence.
A series of text messages introduced at the inquiry also showed a conversation between Marcil and Joe Borsellino, a construction boss who would later pay for a group vacation in Italy.
The corruption inquiry heard that Borsellino took Marcil to Italy after he won an emergency $5 million sewer contract.
Borsellino paid his $700-a-night hotel bill. They visited Rome and Florence on Borsellino’s dime.
Marcil said he tried to pay, but Borsellino insisted that he would pick up the tab. The inquiry head, France Charbonneau, dryly reacted by asking how hard of a fight Marcil put up over the bill.
That vacation led to Marcil’s departure from the city.
After an anonymous letter was received by then-mayor Gerald Tremblay in June 2009, Marcil was convened to a meeting to explain the trip with a major contractor.
When human resources at the city asked for evidence that he’d paid his own way, Marcil returned with a letter of resignation.
Marcil has said that the practice of accepting gifts from contractors was tolerated as a long-standing business-relations practice.
Commissioner Renaud Lachance reminded Marcil that he “wasn’t in business,” but a high-ranking city official collecting a salary paid by taxpayers.
Charbonneau was equally blunt at one point during Tuesday’s testimony.
“You were a senior civil servant. You had a head on your shoulders! And you needed to show a little judgment. It didn’t need to be written down (to know) that you don’t do it,” she exclaimed.
Marcil replied: “It was poor judgment, I totally agree with you.”
Marcil has steadfastly denied that he had any inkling that collusion was going on under his nose.
“I never asked questions about possible collusion by the (city) engineers or by the contractors,” Marcil said.
Marcil is back on the stand Wednesday.