Update: A Quebec Superior Court judge has lifted Montgomery's suspension until a hearing can be held on the merits of the case in October. Read more here.
Lawyers for Sue Montgomery, mayor of the Montreal borough of Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce who was suspended for 120 days yesterday by the Quebec Municipal Commission for ethics violations, went to Quebec Superior Court this afternoon to try to have the suspension quashed.
The commission found Montgomery guilty last month of 11 ethics violations.
They included disrespecting and insulting civil servants on several occasions, once trying to withhold pay from a civil servant who had alleged harassment and failing to divulge conflicts of interest pertaining to harassment at council meetings.
The 120-day suspension without pay starts today. Montgomery can't perform any of her duties as mayor. The suspension doesn't prevent her from campaigning though and it would be lifted at her swearing-in — if she's re-elected borough mayor Nov. 7.
Last month, Montgomery referred to the proceedings against her as a "witch hunt."
Commission acted unfairly: Montgomery's lawyer
Montgomery's lawyer Eric Oliver argued the decision against her and the suspension were unfair on many fronts. He said the commission and the judge who ruled on her case were both in a conflict of interest.
He also said it took far longer than usual for the commission to issue its ruling: 16 months instead of the usual 90 days. Oliver suggested the delay was deliberate and an attempt to weaken Montgomery's campaign for re-election.
Pierre Robitaille, lawyer for the commission, rejected the argument that the organization was in conflict of interest and said the reason it took months to consider the matter was that it wanted to be thorough and did not want to speed the process up to accommodate election timetables.
Oliver argued that together, these things represent a "cascade of incoherence" that smears Montgomery, harms her political career, and justifies staying the suspension as soon as possible.
He asked for a stay of proceedings and for the ethics violations to be tossed.
Superior Court Judge Mark Phillips said he would have a decision on the stay as soon as possible, likely within a few days and that he will hear arguments about the validity of the ethics violations at a hearing set for Oct. 5.
All the ethics violations are connected to allegations of psychological harassment of civil servants against Montgomery's former chief of staff, Annalisa Harris.
Both Montgomery and Harris have vigorously denied the allegations.
Mayor Valérie Plante's office praised the suspension, as did the opposition Ensemble Montréal party.
Montgomery was kicked out of Plante's party when the allegations first surfaced.