Martin Prud'homme, who was suspended as head of the Quebec provincial police last year, says he's been unfairly targeted by investigations into an alleged ethical breach.
In a series of interviews Friday morning, he said the government has now tasked its Commission de la fonction publique, a provincial oversight agency, to look into firing him and called it part of a "fishing expedition."
Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said at a news conference hours later the commission will have to determine whether Prud'homme's actions warrant dismissal or a suspensions without pay.
"This is just the next step in the process," Guilbault said. "It's an unusual process but the breach that was committed was serious enough to lead to an analysis by the commission."
Guilbault said she couldn't go into specifics about what led to his suspension, but that if Prud'homme consents to sharing details about the tribunal, the government will agree to making them public.
Prud'homme was removed as director of the Sûreté du Québec in 2019, for committing a possible ethical breach related to leaks of information at Quebec's anti-corruption unit, UPAC.
Prud'homme told Radio-Canada's Tout un matin the ethical breach in question involved a 2017 phone call he made to Quebec's lead prosecutor, Annick Murphy, the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions.
He didn't say what was said on the call, but he complained prosecutors were gossiping about his relationships with former police officer and current Liberal Party MNA, Guy Ouellette, and his father-in-law, Robert Lafrenière, who was heading UPAC at the time.
Prud'homme said he was polite with Murphy despite it being a heated conversation, but that she made a complaint about the phone call 16 months later.
At the time, Quebec's anti-corruption squad was under scrutiny because the fact it was investigating ex-premier Jean Charest and Liberal fundraiser Marc Bibeau was leaked to media.
Ouellette was arrested by UPAC in October 2017 and believed to be responsible for the leaks. He was never charged.
Prud'homme said it's now clear to him Murphy believed he was trying to interfere with the case. In fact, he said, he was trying to denounce rumours about his involvement among both police officers working under him and prosecutors working under her.
"I realized we were not on the same page," he said, calling it a "hot potato" now in the government's hands following her complaint.
Quebec's bureau of independent investigations, known by its French acronym, BEI, led the investigation into Prud'homme's possible involvement with the leaks.
"I was treated like a criminal," Prud'homme said on Tout un matin.
It took more than a year for investigators to inform him about the reason he was suspended, he said.
In an interview with La Presse, which first reported his comments, Prud'homme said he was unfairly targeted in his suspension because of his friendship with Ouellette.
He said he was never given the ability to defend himself properly and that the government simply wants to end his 32-year-career in public service.
Prud'homme was not long ago touted for his leadership and managerial skills. In 2017, he was tapped as interim chief of Montreal police for a year to reform the organization's culture.
As director of the Sûreté du Québec, Prud'homme is hired by the National Assembly and its members. Only they, with the premier's approval, can vote to fire him, Guilbault explained Friday.