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New Montreal-area mayor in a flap -- a sex scandal

Laval leader exits amid extortion, prostitution controversy

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Former Laval interim mayor Alexandre Duplessis: denies soliciting sex

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Former Laval interim mayor Alexandre Duplessis: denies soliciting sex

MONTREAL -- The Montreal area has had a mayor quit this year over alleged illegal party financing. Another quit after being arrested and charged with fraud. One was charged with gangsterism after he stepped down.

Now the area has lost a mayor in an entirely different scandal, unrelated to illicit money.

This time it's about sex.

The interim mayor of suburban Laval, Alexandre Duplessis, announced he was stepping down Friday in a letter to the city clerk's office and said his departure would take effect immediately.

This was just six hours after Duplessis told reporters he would not resign after a controversy allegedly involving extortion and a prostitute.

It's unclear what prompted the swift about-face. But political rivals had spent the day urging him to step down, while media inspected his denial that he'd ever solicited sex.

A new interim mayor will be chosen from the remaining group of city councillors. That person will hold the post until the municipal election on Nov. 3.

That process begins next week.

The resignation of Laval's interim mayor came a week after the interim mayor of Montreal resigned. Both Duplessis and Michael Applebaum had been replacing scandal-plagued elected predecessors. Applebaum quit after he was slapped with fraud charges.

Duplessis had sounded defiant earlier in the day.

"I never, never, never received sexual services," Duplessis said in a brief news conference Friday.

"I did not solicit -- I did not receive -- I received nothing sexual. There was an attempt to extort me."

His comments came one day after news stories reported unconfirmed allegations he was involved in an encounter with an escort that went awry.

Police have confirmed a man has complained about being extorted by a prostitute on June 14 -- but they haven't identified the man.

They said the man got involved in a dispute with an escort about payment, and that there was an alleged extortion attempt afterward.

They have said they plan to hand the case over to prosecutors for their consideration.

The case represents only the latest controversy involving a Canadian mayor following resignations, criminal charges and police investigations of municipal leaders in different cities.

Even for Duplessis, it wasn't the first time through the scandal wringer.

The city was recently placed under provincial trusteeship after allegations at a provincial inquiry Duplessis took part in illegal political financing when he was a councillor.

But he still sounded committed to staying in the job Friday morning.

"I will of course be continuing in my role as mayor," he said earlier in the day.

"I will not quit."

It's unclear whether political pressure played a role in changing his mind.

Laval city councillors had been convened for a meeting at city hall late Friday afternoon. Members of Laval's unelected opposition parties were, meanwhile, calling for him to quit.

Jean-Claude Gob©, a former Liberal MNA who has announced his intention to run for mayor this fall, had said Duplessis needed to step down out of respect for residents.

"I think it's pathetic," Gob© said in a phone interview earlier Friday.

"It's something that he needs to understand -- that he no longer has the credibility or the moral authority (to stay on)."

Duplessis took over after longtime mayor Gilles Vaillancourt stepped down last November after 23 years at the helm.

Duplessis was a councillor under Vaillancourt's now-defunct party, which held the majority -- and often all -- the seats on council for many years.

Once Duplessis took over, trouble began brewing again.

A witness at Quebec's corruption inquiry testified practically all elected officials took part in illegal party financing, including Duplessis when he was a councillor.

The Quebec government promptly placed the city under trusteeship.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 A24

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