The allegation Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier was offered a “financial conflict of interest” to support the Kingsway Entertainment District is “very concerning,” Mayor Brian Bigger said.
“These are extremely serious allegations,” Bigger said in a written statement that came in response to an interview request. “I urge the Councillor to reach out to the police so that this matter can be investigated immediately."
Greater Sudbury integrity commissioner Robert Swayze confirmed Wednesday that he has received a complaint about the situation but hadn’t gotten to it yet so didn’t have anything further to say at that time.
In a Facebook post last weekend, Montpellier alleged that he did not vote on the location for a new municipal arena in 2017 due to an “offered financial conflict of interest.”
The councillor went on to write that he was “approached in person twice by Mr. A--- on behalf of the developer, and once by Mr. K-- who represented Gateway.
“Being familiar with my business involvement and participation with Ontario and Michigan casinos, both suggested the opportunity to personally profit by supporting the Kingsway location,” he wrote. “This for myself as a city councilor is clearly unethical and cause to abstain.”
Connecting with Sudbury.com by phone Wednesday night, Montpellier said the use of the word “bribe” in a headline for the previous day’s story describing his allegations was sensationalist.
After the subjects of his accusation “said this will improve your business,” Montpellier said he declared his conflict of interest to council and did not vote on the matter.
During city council’s June 27, 2017, meeting in which mayor and council voted on a location for the new arena, Montpellier declared a conflict of interest due to his “full-time motorsport entertainment business,” noting the decision, “either way,” would affect his outside of council professional and financial situation.
“There was no bag of money, there weren’t bribes,” Montpellier said Wednesday, adding that his words have been “very, very clear” for years. “Three of these conversations happened at city hall, there’s no hiding in the bushes or anything; it happened at city hall.”
Further, Montpellier asked, “What is a bribe? … To be honest with you, I don’t have the answer. To me, if I had to say, obviously I backed away, I said, ‘No way am I going to freakin’ support you if you said this will increase your business.’ Man oh man if I had to say to somebody, I say that is not an appropriate statement to make.”
Merriam-Webster defines a bribe as “money or favour given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust,” and “something that serves to induce or influence.”
Montpellier said he has received a “bullshit letter” from Bigger suggesting he phone the police about the bribe he was offered, which in Montpellier’s words, “suggested the opportunity to personally profit by supporting the Kingsway location.”
“Gentlemen, feel free to call the cops tomorrow,” Montpellier said, inviting any of the more than 27,000 people who viewed his Facebook post to do so.
“I’m OK because I know where I stand.”
In addition to Bigger, Sudbury.com reached out to Montpellier’s colleagues on council for additional insights regarding Montpellier’s Facebook post.
“This is a serious allegation and a serious issue,” Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland wrote in emailed correspondence, adding that if true, what’s been described would fit the definition of municipal corruption under the Criminal Code.
During the June 27, 2017, city council meeting Montpellier was unable to vote in due to his declared conflict of interest, the city’s elected officials voted 6-6 on a motion to have a new arena located downtown, which was therefore defeated.
If Montpellier’s claims are true, McCausland said his colleague may have unintentionally allowed the decision on a location to be influenced by a private developer.
“I believe that we must pause the work on the KED until an investigation into this matter can be completed,” McCausland said.
Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti said that he wasn’t aware of anything such as what Montpellier described as occurring, but that “if this is something that truly did occur,” it’s concerning.
“We’re seeing different things come to the table now that questions the whole process that took place in 2017, so when we talk about open and transparent government I find that it doesn’t pass the smell test with me,” he said.
“When new information keeps popping up that shows the process had some flaws in it … then that questions the whole process itself, and how do we move forward with something when there are so many red flags in place.”
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.