St. Lazare: Personal attacks dominate raucous council session
by JULIE CADIEUX
ST. LAZARE — Last week’s council meeting played out like a made-for-TV drama, complete with cast of characters slinging accusations, innuendos and angry comments at mayor Pierre Kary.
The evening began with the proposal for an indoor aquatic centre. Even though a project outline was posted on the town website Oct. 3, some residents showed up to voice their fears of increased taxes down the road. The mayor reminded them that a Léger Marketing poll done in July 2010 showed that 78 percent of of those surveyed wanted an indoor pool.
District 5 councillor Gilbert Arsenault stressed the project will happen only if the town gets government funding. This past August, the town applied for a provincial grant for up to half the estimated $12-$14 million cost and hopes to have a response by the end of next year. The most likely location is next to the library because the town owns the land and it is already zoned institutional. Kary is on record saying he’s seeking co-operation from neighbouring municipalities as well as the private sector.
A notice of motion to revisit a proposed increase in the mayor’s salary got the crowd grumbling. This past April, Kary presented a notice of motion of a resolution to make the mayor’s job full-time, with an annual salary of $69,500 and a tax-free expense account of approximately $14,500. The resolution wasn’t presented when Kary realized he didn’t have council’s support.
The latest version would pay the mayor $60,000, retroactive to Jan. 1, plus $14,759 in expenses for a total of $74,759. He currently earns $27,367.08 and $13,683.54 in expenses for a total of $41,050.62. Councillors will continue to be paid $9,122.36, plus $4,561.18 in expenses, but they’ll also receive $100 per working table to a total of $1600.
It now appears Kary has the support of three of the six councillors. Because provincial law requires the mayor to vote on salary bylaws even though he has a direct pecuniary interest in the outcome, the salary revision stands to be adopted at the Nov. 1 council meeting.
However that didn’t stop the opposition and residents from demanding why the mayor felt he deserved the increase and what changes had occurred since his election in 2009 that would now warrant the post becoming full time.
Councillors Brigitte Asselin, Michel Lambert and Jean-Paul Gauthier seemed both annoyed and surprised with the notice of motion, suggesting that it had been added to the agenda without their knowledge. “Why are you throwing this at us?” asked Lambert.
As he has previously, Kary argued that the town’s rapid growth in the last decade puts greater demand on the mayor.
Following the meeting, Asselin and Lambert said the notice of motion of the salary bylaw was added to the agenda following a caucus meeting the previous week. Asselin has proposed that the mayor’s salary be increased incrementally, while Lambert noted the town has added two project-management salaries (former town manager Lucie Gendron and former technical services director Ghislain Castonguay) as well as a new human resources director, easing the burden on the mayor.
But the grand finale was when St. Lazare’s ex-mayor Paul Carzoli and unsuccessful District 3 candidate Robert Cox demanded to know why the mayor recently changed his profile on the town website. “I’m 42 years old, and not 40,” Kary responded.
Pressed by Cox, Kary admitted making other changes after receiving a letter from the Barreau du Québec, advising him he couldn’t describe himself as a legal patent advisor because the term is reserved for members of the bar. “Certain information in my biography led to certain people believing that I was a member of the Quebec Bar Association,” he explained.
Cox, who said he resigned the town’s ethics committee August 5 upon learning Kary was not a member of the bar, claims the mayor misled residents into believing that he was a lawyer and/or legal advisor, first during his election campaign, then in his St. Lazare website bio. Cox became heated as he demanded whether the mayor would resign from the ethics committee, to which Kary calmly stated that he would not.
“I did not make false representations,” Kary later told the Hudson/St. Lazare Gazette. “Admittedly, while describing my career and education, I did use terms which are protected in Quebec by the Barreau du Quebec for exclusive use by Quebec professionals. Once informed of this, I rectified the situation.”
Kary, who worked in Europe as a legal patent adviser, explained that the term ‘European Patent Attorney’ is an official, professional and protected title in Europe.
“I was not aware that the term ‘legal advisor’ or ‘conseil juridique’ were protected terms. My foreign qualifications did not entitle the use of these softer terms in Quebec. I contacted the Barreau du Quebec, both by phone and mail, easily made some modifications to the town’s site, received unofficial verbal consent, and have not heard further from them in this matter.”
Since last week’s meeting, a similar complaint has been filed with Quebec’s Order of Chartered Accountants complaining about District 1 councillor Nathalie Richard’s biography on the St. Lazare website, which states that she has been a chartered accountant since 1993.
Richard, who worked as a CA with an accounting firm for six years and was a CA at Pfizer for 10 years, confirms she hasn’t paid her professional dues since she ran in the November, 2009 municipal election. Currently self-employed as marketing consultant, she says she can be reinstated as a CA by paying back dues within five years.
Richard feels residents deserve to know information about their elected officials. “Writing a bio shouldn’t be tricky or have you stuck in legal jargon,” she says. “I was a chartered accountant for 15 years…For me these are cheap shots.”
She believes St. Lazare residents don’t like petty politics any more than she does. Kary agrees. “The allegations against me are a reminder of the past way of doing politics in St. Lazare. In my opinion, this style of politics did not – and does not – serve the public interest.”
The majority of residents at the meeting were a group of defeated politicians and campaigners with an ulterior motive, he said. “It was political posturing by a handful of rejected politicians and not reflective of the opinion of the majority of citizens.
The Hudson St. Lazare Gazette – October 12th, 2011 – Julie Cadieux