Quebec's Court of Appeal ruled Monday that, despite his fraud conviction, former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum can keep the $268,000 he received from the city after resigning from office.
This upholds last year's Superior Court ruling in Applebaum's favour, saying he is entitled to the money because his criminal case happened before the province changed its laws to prevent municipal politicians from collecting severance if convicted of certain crimes.
Applebaum was found guilty of eight corruption-related offences related to his time as borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and was granted parole in June 2017 after serving two months of a 12-month sentence.
At the time of his arrest in June 2013, Applebaum was serving as the city's interim mayor. He had taken over for Gérald Tremblay, who resigned in 2012. Shortly after his arrest, Applebaum resigned but insisted he was innocent of any wrongdoing.
In the years that followed, the province established new laws to exclude politicians convicted of certain crimes from receiving any public money, including severance packages.
The city then sued Applebaum to get his severance pay back, but Quebec Superior Court Justice Serge Gaudet said in January 2020 the former mayor is entitled to the money.
Gaudet said laws surrounding municipal officials' severance pay, modified in 2016 and again in 2018, were never meant to be retroactive.
In its appeal submitted on Feb. 19, 2020, Montreal argued Gaudet erred in his judgment and that the law actually applies to cases dating back five years.
Montreal said the law was meant to be retroactive because it is written in the past tense.
However, the Court of Appeal sided with Gaudet, dismissing the the city's appeal with legal costs.
"Contrary to what [Montreal] suggests, the fact that article 31.1.2 of the law is written in the past tense does not allow the conclusion that it must apply to the reimbursement of allowances paid before its entry into force," the court says in its ruling Monday.
The court notes the law is a necessary tool in preventing corruption as current and future elected officials will know their severance packages are only theirs to keep if they follow the law.
But when it comes to Applebaum, the old law required severance be paid to elected representatives upon resignation and was never "dependent on their behaviour or integrity," the court concluded.