No interim mayor yet for Laval

The vice-chair of Laval's executive committee has withdrawn his candidacy for the job of interim mayor, saying it is up to the municipal affairs minister to decide how to fill that position.

Basile Angelopoulos said his was the only name put forward by Laval city council.

But that decision was made before a surprise announcement by Municipal Affairs Minister Sylvain Gaudreault that he intends to appoint a special auditor to oversee Laval's affairs.

"The minister indicated that the naming of the special auditor was even more serious than a [trusteeship] of the city," said Angelopoulos. "In light of this change of events and this change of position, we have decided that we would wait on the minister clarifying his position as to what it is exactly that this special auditor is charged with doing, in order to decide where we go from there."

"My candidacy has been withdrawn," said Angelopoulos. "on the basis that I no longer know what type of mayor I would be in the new context that the minister has created."

Angelopoulos said the minister now has three options: to designate a member of council to fill the position, call a byelection or put the city in trusteeship.

Robert Bordeleau, head of the unelected opposition Service du Citoyen party, said he would have liked to have seen the election of a candidate who is not a member of Vaillancourt's former party.

PRO des Lavallois has been the only party represented at council for the last decade.

Gaudreault's announcement that he would name an auditor to oversee operations in Laval follows last week's resignation of the city's mayor amid corruption allegations.

"The confidence of Laval residents has been shaken during recent months," said Gaudreault in a statement. "I want to know what is going on in Laval."

Gaudreault said the auditor will remain in place until the next municipal election in Nov. 2013.

He said the auditor will report back to the ministry and will watch over all aspects of the city's administration, particularly the awarding of contracts and real estate transactions.

"I want to assure [the population of Quebec] that concrete actions are being taken in order for us to emerge even stronger from this crisis," Gaudreault said.

The minister says he has also ordered the city council to prepare a report by Jan. 15 to outline how it will address "serious problems" identified in an audit by the ministry last spring.

After 23 years as mayor of Laval, Gilles Vaillancourt resigned on Nov. 9 following allegations of corruption.

He continues to deny all wrongdoing and said he was hurt by the wrongful accusations.

Over the past month, officials have carried out a series of raids on Laval construction firms, engineering firms and Laval city hall.

Officers with Quebec's anti-corruption squad also raided Vaillancourt's home and bank accounts.

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