Martin C. Barry
For a third year since the creation of the Laval Ethics and Integrity Office (BIEL), police chief Pierre Brochet has tabled a report of efforts made last year to keep track and prevent acts of corruption from taking place within the administration of the City of Laval.
In September 2013 when Brochet was first hired in the wake of the municipal corruption scandal involving former mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, he was given a mandate to oversee internal investigations. Following the election in November that year, the BIEL was created and has worked with the police department since then.
Proud of their work, says Brochet
“We’re very proud with the results,” Brochet said in an interview last week with the Laval News, while adding that experience is making the task of compiling each year’s report easier. “We’re writing the book,” he said, noting that Laval Police is the only police department in Quebec mandated to carry out the task in this specific manner.
“There are two models in Quebec: the model with the Inspector General and our model,” he added. “And when I think about it, I think the best place to put such an office was with the police service. Because as part of my function I have a certain independence with regards to criminal investigations. We’ve done work and there’s momentum now with the system in place.”
As Brochet pointed out, the past year saw the police department and the BIEL concentrating on the recuperation of large sums of money from contractors who had worked for the city. This was accomplished largely with the assistance of Quebec Bill 26, although the City of Laval used the law to its fullest extent taking into account the past history of corruption here.
Snow contracts investigated
“We were able to support the efforts to recover lost sums – and we’re talking about millions of dollars – which is why it was very important for us.” Last year, as well, said Brochet, BIEL and the police department conducted a close examination of the City of Laval’s administrative procedures for dealing with contractors – particularly those who handle snow removal.
“We had seen a certain amount of fraud in the area of snow removal. So we conducted an in-depth evaluation of the system’s procedures in order to identify areas where there were risks.” However, there is still a fair amount of work to be done recovering money, Brochet added. “There’s a good potential,” he said.
While doing their work, BIEL and the police investigators conducted more than 100 individual inquiries, although 68 of them were found to be administrative issues, and only 36 were deemed to merit a full police investigation. Brochet was asked by the Laval News how the investigators were able to judge the differences between the two classifications.
A rise in reported incidents
While noting that in 2015 the City of Laval started a new policy allowing employees as well as members of the public to report suspected instances of corruption, he said that beginning that year there was a significant increase in reported incidents with 150 files of the sort opened and a slightly smaller number the following year.
“The goal here is basically to be as transparent as possible,” Brochet continued. “People have been letting us know about preoccupations they have in terms of ethics and integrity. From there we do an initial analysis, and following that first analysis it becomes classified either as something that is simply administrative because there is no criminal aspect to it, or it becomes more criminal and it’s handled by our investigators.
The UPAC alternative
“There’s also another option: If we see that a tip we received actually seems related to corruption, then we send it directly to UPAC [Quebec’s Unité permanente anticorruption]. This too shows that we are hiding nothing in Laval. We are truly transparent. And if some information comes our way it will be noted and it will be investigated.”
Brochet was careful to point out that even though BIEL and the Laval Police Department take all the tips they receive seriously, the ultimate goal is either to exonerate those involved, or find incriminating evidence in other cases so that further action can be taken if necessary. “We take everything seriously that we receive from citizens, employees or suppliers,” he said.