The Town of Fermont was awarded a contract at $ 50 per hour on a silver platter to the wife of its director-general, the former police chief of montreal’s Philippe Pitcher. The mayor now acknowledges that it would have been better to proceed otherwise.
Last January, the City has granted otc a contract to Nancy Labarre that she manages for a few months and part-time service point of the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) of Fermont.
She is the wife of Philip Pitcher, general manager of the City since September 2019. The latter was chief of police in Montreal from 2015 to 2017.
As the value of the contract was below $ 25,000, the City had every right to give the private contract, without a tender.
But the fact that there was no display of position and no other candidate considered was disliked by some within the city of 2500 inhabitants.
Also, no resolution or public document related to this contract are the state of the marital bond between Ms. Labarre and the highest official of the City.
Mayor of Fermont
The mayor of Fermont, Martin St-Laurent, swear that the woman of his DG was not entitled to a privileged treatment, even if it is the City that offered him the position. He also claims that Philippe Pitcher is not achieved at any point in the selection process of his wife.
“I needed someone temporarily, and she agreed to help me out,” he says.
According to the mayor, Fermont has agreed to take charge of the point-of-service of the SAAQ last fall, the time that the organization sees a long-term manager.
However, the City is found at the last minute without anyone to manage the point of service, just before the Holidays. It is at this point that would have offered the position to Ms. Labarre to avoid a “break in service” in January.
At least one other person was available in the bank of candidates for the City at this time, but it has not been requested, we have confirmed with the mayor.
He said to us that if it was to do over again, he would be posting.
“I’m comfortable how it has been done in relation to ethics. When one is in a small community isolated, we know that we need to be careful, ” said the latter.
However, two experts in the municipalities believe that the City should have acted with greater rigour (see below).
To the hotel… near his home
Before taking the orders from the point of service, Ms. Labarre has had to follow this winter training to the SAAQ for a period of five weeks, in Montreal. The City has disbursed close to $ 5,000 to cover hotel expenses and subsistence during the training, even if the couple Pitcher-Labarre has a residence in the metropolitan area.
“She preferred to stay close to the hotel and it really did not bother me. If it had been anywhere else, I would have paid anyway, ” says about the mayor of St-Laurent.
The City of Fermont has not wanted to pass on our request for interview to Mr. Pitcher and his wife, because they were on vacation.
The contract between Fermont to the SAAQ has ended in may, a month before the scheduled date, because the City was going to exceed the budgeted amount of $ 25,000 for the remuneration of Mrs. Labarre, which would have required it to renew the contract or solicit bids.
More transparency requested
Fermont certainly would have to be more transparent and allow its citizens to apply for the position obtained by the wife of the director-general of the City, believes Danielle Pilette, a professor at UQAM and a specialist in municipal affairs.
“The urgency to act is often an excuse used in the municipal setting. But this is not because it takes 15 days more than planned to post a job or make a call for tenders that everything will stop working. […] It manages public money. It must be transparent to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, ” she said.
“In a small town, it may be that the person available for a position to be connected to someone [to the city], but at this point, it is necessary that you put the shoulder straps in addition to a belt to make sure that the process is well documented and made public “, believes Marie-Soleil Tremblay, researcher at the Centre for research on the governance of the national School of public administration.
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