|Gerald Tremblay announces his resignation as mayor of Montreal, Nov. 5, 2012. (ÉTIENNE LABERGE/QMI Agency)
MONTREAL -- Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay quit Monday night after a campaign financing scandal and corrupt city engineers eroded his support in the caucus and among voters.
The former provincial cabinet minister and lawyer defended his integrity during a five-minute statement at City Hall as he was flanked by councillors.
The mayor, first elected in 2001, maintained what he has said throughout police investigations, scathing media reports and allegations of kickbacks and bid-rigging - that he's innocent of any wrongdoing and only found out about the scandals after the fact.
"When I received this information, I asked officials and advisers why they had not informed me, and why people in positions of authority did nothing?" said Tremblay, 70.
"My trust was betrayed, I take full responsibility."
Tremblay had insisted for weeks that he wouldn't quit but he changed his tune after an inquiry heard that he knew about dirty cash funnelled to his Union Montreal Party.
He cancelled a business luncheon appearance scheduled for last Friday and a councillor quit his caucus.
When the Parti Quebecois government asked the embattled mayor to consider his future, it was clear that his days were numbered.
Martin Dumont, his former campaign organizer, told the inquiry last week that he, the mayor and a party official were in a meeting in 2004 when the official said the Union Montreal party had an official budget and an unofficial budget.
Dumont added that the party was so awash in money by 2004 that he once had to help the chief fundraiser shut the door of a safe overstuffed with cash at party headquarters.
Tremblay has been interviewed by police but not charged, although members of his inner circle have been arrested.
His one-time right-hand man, former executive committee chairman Frank Zampino, was nabbed earlier this year and currently faces charges in an alleged real-estate scam.
An ongoing public inquiry has heard that Zampino received $300,000 in bribes and that Tremblay was present at a 2004 meeting where two other party officials discussed illicit campaign financing.
Two city engineers have also testified that Mafia-linked construction firms paid them around $600,000 each in bribes in exchange for inflating contracts. Both engineers also admitted they took a Caribbean golfing trip with Mafia don Vito Rizzuto.
Educated at the University of Ottawa and Harvard Business School, Tremblay served as industry minister in Quebec premier Robert Bourassa's cabinet from 1989 to 1994.
He was first elected as mayor in 2001, taking control of a newly merged mega-city that had gobbled up 28 suburbs. He was re-elected to two more majority terms even though a dozen mainly-English municipalities broke off from Montreal in 2006.
Tremblay's resignation is one of two scandals currently rocking Canada's second-largest urban area.
Gilles Vaillancourt, mayor of the sprawling Montreal suburb of Laval, Que., is also expected to quit this week after police raided his home and bank amid reports that money was funnelled to Swiss bank accounts.
Vaillancourt has vehemently denied a barrage of allegations of cronyism and misconduct since 2010.
Laval and Montreal could appoint interim mayors, possibly the chairmen of their respective executive committees.
In a strange twist, Montreal and Laval could both end up with English mayors.
Michael Applebaum is the chairman of Montreal's executive committee while Basile Angelopoulos is his counterpart in Laval.