City auditor got job offer a month before releasing report on Contrecoeur sale

City auditor got job offer a month before releasing report on Contrecoeur sale
City auditor got job offer a month before releasing report on Contrecoeur sale

Former city auditor general Michel Doyon, who called in the police to investigate the SHDM's sale of municipal properties, testified at Contrecoeur fraud trial on Wednesday. PIERRE OBENDRAUF / Montreal Gazette files

A month before Montreal auditor general Michel Doyon released his report on irregularities in the city’s sale of the Faubourg Contrecoeur land to a private developer in March 2009, he received a phone message at his office from Frank Zampino, offering him a job.  

Zampino, who had quit municipal politics the previous summer, had since joined the engineering firm Dessau. The former chairman of Montreal’s executive committee said in his message that he was interested in Doyon’s future and was wondering if he’d be interested in a position as an internal auditor.

Doyon, who is now retired, testified about the message on Wednesday at the fraud trial of Zampino, former construction magnate Paolo Catania and four former executives with Catania’s firm, Construction Frank Catania et Associés Inc., in connection with the Contrecoeur sale.

The firm wound up paying $4.4 million to buy the 38-hectare site to develop 1,800 units of housing. The city’s real-estate arm, which handled the sale, agreed to heavily discount the agreed-to $19.1-million sale price, based largely on the estimated cost to decontaminate the land.

The prosecution played the recording of Zampino’s phone message to the court.

Doyon said he didn’t return Zampino’s call.

He did, however, bring the recording to the city comptroller general and also went to see the Montreal police chief at the time, Yvan Delorme, about it, telling the court that he felt “pressured” by the message. 

Nothing came of his complaints.

Doyon testified that he had a feeling the Contrecoeur sale and other SHDM property sales at the time weren’t right, which is why he wound up recommending the police be called in.

“When it doesn’t smell right, you ask why it doesn’t smell right,” he said.

There was no mention of Zampino in Doyon’s audit report on the Contrecoeur sale. However, Doyon told the court he had asked Zampino’s former secretary at city hall for his old meeting agenda during his probe of the Contrecoeur transaction.

Doyon said he had wanted to check whether Zampino’s agenda could confirm what some witnesses had told him during his probe — that Martial Fillion, the former director of Montreal’s real-estate arm, Société d’habitation et de développement de Montréal (SHDM), used to say that he was in contact with Zampino on the Contrecoeur sale and had his agreement on various aspects.

Zampino’s agenda didn’t confirm any meetings that would corroborate the information, Doyon told the court. So he didn’t mention any of it in his report.

Under cross-examination from Zampino’s lawyer, Doyon acknowledged it was public information that his seven-year mandate as auditor general was ending in 2009. Doyon also acknowledged Zampino appreciated his work as auditor.

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