Laval city councilor denies allegations of rule-breaking and ethics-code violations

[dfp_ads id=6022]
Renata Isopo
A distraught and visibly strained David De Cotis intent on telling “his side of the facts” and negating allegations.

David De Cotis, municipal councilor and former chair of Société de Transport de Laval (STL), is targeted in a second police investigation, according to an unconfirmed report published in Le Journal de Montréal March 9, 2020. This time, the allegations revolve around STL contracts, and follow an earlier story by the same newspaper February 10, 2020 dealing with failure to disclose ownership of lots connected to residential land development.
Latest allegations point to use of pressure tactics by De Cotis when, as STL president, he influenced the granting of a contract to Baracci Solutions, a company headed by former colleague and friend Franco Zegarelli.
Upon learning of the published allegations, De Cotis held a press conference, the same morning, to set the record straight. He was accompanied by city councilor Michel Poissant (Vimont), not in his capacity as caucus chair of Action Laval, the official opposition at city council, but as a former STL administrator.
“In 2015 he disclosed his interest,” Poissant stated, referring to the fact that in the process of the STL’s awarding of an auditing contract to Baracci Solutions, De Cotis informed the STL administrators that he knew the owner of the company. “To me this is fundamental,” he added. Having left the STL in mid-2015, Poissant conceded he could not comment on developments that ensued.

Voluntary disclosure

“It’s important that the people of Laval know that these are allegations,” said De Cotis. “I always managed the STL very efficiently. I don’t deserve these allegations which are incoherent, and I’m very confident the truth will prevail.”
“After Le Journal de Montréal published the article alleging my failure to disclose ownership of lots supposedly connected to residential land development, I voluntarily and willingly went to UPAC and collaborated without (legal) intervention. I was not summoned.”
In rebuttal to STL allegations of impropriety, De Cotis denied any wrongdoing, describing the claims as false, specifying he had no part in public tender nor in granting a contract to an IT services supplier.
De Cotis chaired STL’s board of directors from November 2013 to December 2017, replaced by Gilbert Dumas. Briefly returning June 2018-September 2018, he was replaced by Eric Morasse, who has held the position since.

Under the microscope

David De Cotis has been under glaring spotlights twice in recent weeks. He, and fellow city councilors Isabella Tassoni and Paolo Galati, were signaled out for questionable conduct in a major Journal de Montréal story, early February 2020.
According to the report, De Cotis was under police investigation for having (allegedly) intervened in decisions regarding development of land on which he owned lots, ownership he did not disclose. UPAC – Quebec’s permanent anti-corruption unit – and the Laval Police Department had opened files on De Cotis, said the report. He is also reported to be under investigation by the Québec Municipal Commission (CMQ), which provides oversight in municipal affairs.

Other alleged violations of ethics code

Tassoni and Galati, are also said to be under scrutiny from the CMQ for allegedly not disclosing information to Ville de Laval, ownership of land in Tassoni’s case, or holdings in real estate by Galati, in violation of the code of ethics governing municipal councilors.
The three denied any wrong-doing of disclosure, stating that their alleged violations were errors in not strictly following rules, and assertions that these omissions were deliberate attempts at hiding anything from anyone, are baseless.
Mayor Marc Demers has been quoted as saying that this residential land development controversy has been reported to BIELT – The Office of Integrity and Ethics of Laval-Terrebonne. TLN spoke to the mayor’s office for clarification on several points. Valerie Sauvé, Communications Director for the mayor’s cabinet stated, on the mayor’s behalf, that the mayor was not implicated in the investigation, but was anxious to see the De Cotis issue resolved and the investigation to end. “We find these allegations troubling,” she stated.
Asked how the mayor’s office knows of an investigation, Sauvé replied that it could neither be confirmed nor denied. “It’s the journalist who says so. We are not involved.” Pointing out that the police is confirming nothing, she said that, “What has been reported to police is confidential. It concerns the STL.”
Asked if the allegations affected De Cotis’s city hall functions, Sauvé replied, “Not at all. There’s no impact. He continues to exercise his functions as usual.”

Discrepancies

De Cotis describes the latest allegations regarding his STL involvement as inconsistencies. “I’m blamed for having withdrawn an agenda item when I neither moved nor seconded to remove the motion which was unanimously voted upon.
I’m also blamed for having approved a preferred bidder at a time when I was no longer president of the STL nor a board member. This makes no sense,” he stated, holding the Minutes of the meeting in his hands.

The chronology

Spring 2015, STL Board unanimously decides to change web-site supplier, putting out call to tender. Among potential bidders, an owner was known to De Cotis, who discloses this connection to the administrators.
October 25, 2015, administrators unanimously approve assessment grid and mandate a committee to choose the best bid. De Cotis was absent. Proposed by Jocelyne Frederic-Gauthier, seconded by Aline Dib.
January 23, 2016, administrators decide unanimously to withdraw item 6 from agenda, based on doubts of the competence of the selected supplier for the necessary services; moved by Jocelyne Frederic-Gauthier, seconded by Gilbert Dumas.
October 30, 2017, administrators reactivate item 10, supplier selection, adopting valuation grid forming a committee to choose the best bidder; proposed by Vasilios Karidogiannis, seconded by Jocelyne Frederic-Gauthier.
January 29, 2018, STL administrators award contract to a firm which De Cotis (had) cautioned as a potential conflict of interest. De Cotis was no longer STL chair, replaced the previous month by Gilbert Dumas. De Cotis had left the board altogether. Contract grant moved by Jocelyne Frederic-Gauthier, seconded by Eric Morasse.