Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum resigned on Tuesday, a day after he was charged with fraud and corruption in the latest major Canadian municipal scandal.
“I am going to put my energies into my defense and into my family,” said Applebaum, who had promised to clean up Canada’s second-largest city when he was named to the post in November last year.
Declaring his innocence, he added in a statement to reporters: “This is why I am resigning as mayor of Montreal — it is the responsible thing to do.”
His departure will do little to help the reputation of Quebec, where a two-year public inquiry led by Judge France Charbonneau is unearthing almost daily allegations of contract rigging, kickbacks and fraud going back many years.
Montreal City Council Speaker Harout Chitilian said corruption did not occur overnight.
“It’s a systemic issue, and we realize from the Charbonneau inquiry that, over the past two decades, perhaps even the past three decades, the system was infiltrated by dark forces,” he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC).
Applebaum, a former real-estate agent, was appointed after predecessor Gerald Tremblay stepped down amid allegations he had ignored corruption and illegal spending by his political party. Tremblay has denied wrongdoing.