- A Quebec court has ruled that former Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum will not have to repay a severance package he received upon leaving office.
- Applebaum was convicted for accepting bribes.
On Monday, the Quebec Superior Court ruled that former Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum will be allowed to keep his $268,000 severance pay despite being convicted on charges of fraud and corruption. Applebaum was granted this severance pay, which was funded by taxpayer money, when he was forced to resign in 2013. According to CTV News, the disgraced former mayor received $108,204 in severance allowance and another $159,719 to help him "transition to a new career."
In 2015, it was reported that while awaiting trial, Applebaum became a real estate agent in N.D.G. In case you were wondering, the average salary of a real estate agent in Montreal is over $72,000 a year, plus commission.
The reason Applebaum is allowed to keep his severance pay is that he was charged with crimes before the passage of a law requiring convicted elected officials to give back severance pay and allowances.
Despite the new law, the prosecution argued that Applebaum should retroactively be responsible for giving back the severance pay — something which his legal team has categorically denied.
Mayor Valérie Plante said on Monday that the ruling signals to other politicians that they can break the law with impunity and without consequence.
Applebaum briefly served as mayor of Montreal between 2012 and 2013 before he was arrested. He was convicted in 2017 and received a one-year prison sentence, with two years of probation on counts of corruption, conspiracy, fraud, and breach of trust.
During his time as the borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Applebaum received some $60,000 of bribes from real estate developers.
In an interview with CJAD, Mayor Plante said that "it's not ok that [Applebaum] can keep Montrealer's money." She also said that the city is working with different lawyers in regard to the case to see if they can get the money back.
Applebaum's convictions usually come with a prison sentence of five years or more, but only one year served plus two years probation was ruled to be adequate enough.
Applebaum's lawyer, Natalia Manole, tells MTL Blog that "we argued that he should not reimburse the money because when he committed the crimes and when he received the money, the law did not exist."
"In the case of the transition allowance, the law came into effect after the received the money but before he was found guilty."
"The judge decided that he did not have to reimburse either allowance because 1. the crimes were committed before the law came into effect and 2. he received the money before the law came into effect as well."
"Also, this type of severance pay was not scrapped in 2018. The law was simply modified to limit the cases in which they pay it (you need to meet certain conditions now whereas before it was automatic)."
Whether the City of Montreal will take further action to limit severance pay for convicted elected officials remains to be seen.