Montreal's former No. 2 was courted to run for top job in the city, but declined

MONTREAL – As Quebec’s corruption inquiry awaits to hear from ex-Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay, his former right-hand man is explaining he never wanted the top job.

Frank Zampino says he was encouraged by his own entourage in 2007 to run for mayor but that he wasn’t interested.

He ultimately left city hall to return to the private sector in 2008 after discussing the matter with his family.

Within days of his retirement, he received multiple job offers from various firms before accepting one from engineering firm Dessau.

Dessau executive Rosaire Sauriol has testified Zampino was the most powerful man in the city and that he was aware Sauriol was making cash payments to Union Montreal, Zampino’s political party.

Zampino has denied that claim and told the Charbonneau Commission today he was “outraged” by a suggestion the Dessau job was in return for helping to fuel a corrupt contract system in Montreal.

He said he would not have received job offers had people thought he was corrupt.

The inquiry has heard that companies inflated the cost of public projects and that the extra cash was divided between the Mafia, corrupt bureaucrats and Union Montreal.

Some witnesses, including Zampino, have denied the existence of such a structured scheme.

In January 2007, Zampino was summoned to a “political sounding board” with trusted advisers and friends, who were kicking the tires around a possible run at the mayoralty for him.

Zampino said Sauriol told him he’d make a good choice for mayor if Tremblay didn’t want to run again.

But Zampino testified he told those present he didn’t want the top post and didn’t even know if he’d finish out his term.

Questioned by commission head France Charbonneau whether it was ethical for him to be discussing the city’s future with an engineering boss and not the mayor himself, Zampino said he’d always been loyal to Tremblay.

Zampino is facing a number of criminal charges, including fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust stemming from a City of Montreal land deal.

He is the highest-ranking political figure to testify so far at the inquiry, although he will soon be upstaged by Tremblay, a three-term mayor who stepped down last November after testimony at the inquiry.

Tremblay wanted to testify before the inquiry last fall to counter allegations he was aware of illegal party financing, but the inquiry had a different schedule.

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