Saint-Placide, Que., placed under partial trusteeship for misuse of public funds
The town of Saint-Placide, in the Laurentians, has been placed under partial trusteeship by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
The trusteeship, which involves only human resources, follows a damning report by Quebec's municipal commission (CMQ) concerning "misuse of public funds and a serious case of mismanagement."
This measure comes after several complaints filed in 2018, in particular against the director general of the municipality, Lise Lavigne, for psychological harassment.
"The minister of municipal affairs has made the decision to submit the municipality of Saint-Placide to the control of the Commission municipale du Québec for its human resources decisions, in accordance with the Act respecting the Commission municipale," said CMQ spokesperson Isabelle Rivoal.
She said this decision was made following "a disclosure of wrongdoing against the municipality."
Mayor of Saint-Placide Daniel Laviolette said he intends to co-operate fully with the CMQ in this matter.
"We acted completely in good faith, without favouritism, in the interest of our people, and we did this to be responsible with public funds," he said.
In April, after the publication of the report of the CMQ's Direction des enquêtes et des poursuites en intégrité municipale — a department that handles disclosures of wrongdoing in the municipal sector — the mayor had said he was against placing the town under trusteeship.
In a news release Monday, Laviolette tried to reassure the community of about 1,800 residents that municipal finances are in excellent condition.
$500,000 in severance pay
A week earlier, during a contentious Saint-Placide municipal council meeting, four of the six councillors said they supported an intervention by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
At the heart of the discord was a $500,000 payment to Lavigne as part of an amicable settlement, which the Administrative Labour Tribunal subsequently ratified.
Lavigne was dismissed in 2019 after several complaints of psychological harassment. However, she resumed the director general position in the fall of 2022, pocketing the half-million dollars for loss of salary, pension plan and retirement savings, as well as compensation for moral damages.
The commission found that the $500,000 payment to Lavigne was tainted with irregularities. The report says the municipality gave inaccurate, even erroneous, information to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs when it requested authorization to proceed with a loan by-law.
Dismayed by this situation, more than 400 residents had signed a petition at the end of April, calling on Minister Andrée Laforest to intervene.