A small Quebec town was ordered to pay the legal expenses of its former mayor after Quebec Superior Court held in a harshly-worded decision that he did not deserve the treatment he suffered.
Former Saint-Constant mayor Gilles Pépin was the target of a series of anti-corruption raids on February 2013 and faced charges of fraud, breach of trust, municipal corruption and conspiracy. The day before a preliminary hearing was scheduled to take place, the matter was abruptly dropped.
Pépin then sued the town for $92,000 for legal fees he incurred to defend himself, relying on article 606.6 of the Quebec Cities and Towns Act, which states that a municipality will assume the defence or representation of an accused by reason of the person’s alleged act or omission in the performance of his duties as a member of the council or as an officer or employee of the municipality. The town refused, asserting that the acts committed by Pépin were not committed in the performance of his duties, that Pépin did not face a trial and was therefore not acquitted, and that perhaps the investigation into Pépin was not yet completed.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Kirkland Casgrain was hardly impressed. “Pépin was not acquitted?” rhetorically asked Justice Casgrain in Pépin c. Ville de Saint-Constant 2018 QCCS 2165. “Hold on. He was never deemed to be even accused. What else is needed? That Pépin prove that he was innocent of accusations that were never laid against him? The dossier against him may not be completed? What does the defense lawyer want? A declaration by the (provincial anti-corruption unit) that it will not charge Pépin?”
It turns out that Pépin was the victim of dirty politics. An investigation was launched against Pépin by the Quebec anti-corruption unit after being denounced by a rival political organizer.
The town was ordered to pay him $92,600 in legal fees he incurred to defend himself, and $35,000 for legal expenses he incurred to launch the civil suit.