During testimony this week before the Charbonneau Commission, Frank Zampino, the former number two man at Montreal’s city hall, admitted that vacationing with former construction boss Tony Accurso on the latter’s yacht—a luxurious vessel with four king-size cabins and a six-person Jacuzzi—was maybe an error in judgment. As it is said: You think?
Tuesday was a day of denials, dissembling, and contradictions. Yes, Zampino was buddies with people like Accurso and disgraced engineering firm magnate Rosaire Sauriol, but no, he never let those ties influence which companies won public service contracts. Yes, his family had holidayed on Accurso’s yacht, aptly named The Touch, back in 2005. But no, he never thought to come clean about that because, unlike another vacation on the yacht two years later, his buddy wasn’t with him at the time.
No, Zampino insisted in repeated denials, he didn’t know anything untoward was going on regarding collusion at city hall while he was in office. But yes, he acknowledged having seen at least the conclusions of a 2006 internal report about that very problem.
He tried to backtrack. But how could he?
“You lied to us,” said France Charbonneau’s co-commissioner, Renaud Lachance, who happens to be the province’s former auditor-general. Zampino had insisted there were no red flags warning him of problems, but this document sitting right in front of him was a big red flag, if ever there was one.
Well, then. Zampino suggested that perhaps the commissioners had misunderstood his testimony, for he had stated that he had heard no reports of collusion from construction bosses (many of whom were his friends).
Or maybe his memory was faulty. Or, as he also suggested, it wasn’t his job to inform the mayor—and he had recommended the report be passed to an internal audit committee for further action.
Zampino is expected to continue testifying at least through today. Waiting in the wings is his former boss, Gérald Tremblay. Montreal’s former mayor resigned last year in the wake of revelations about collusion and his party, Union Montreal, having taken a reportedly shady, lucrative approach to fundraising. Should be interesting.
“The Avenger” (May 2013) • Justice France Charbonneau is the steely calm at the helm of Quebec’s corruption inquiry
“Mr. Three Percent to the Max” (April 2013) • Bérnard Trepanier testifies at the Charbonneau Commission on corruption in Quebec’s construction industry
“Break Time Is Over” (April 2013) • In Montreal, the Charbonneau Commission on corruption in Quebec’s construction industry resumes after a holiday hiatus
“Cool Hand Frank” (April 2013) • Testimony continues at the Charbonneau Commission on corruption in Quebec’s construction industry
Lisa Fitterman is a National Newspaper Award winner and the author of two children’s books.