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Denholm mayor resigns over DUI on the job

April 11th,2024 | Municipal News, News

Former Denholm mayor Gaétan Guindon has resigned afterpleading guilty to driving a municipal vehicle while intoxicated. He’s now under investigation by Quebec’s integrity commission Directorate over allegations that he spent over $3,400 of taxpayer money on alcohol. Photo: Courtesy Denholm

The mayor of Denholm has resigned from his post after pleading guilty to driving a municipal vehicle while drunk. He’s also under investigation for allegedly spending more than $3,400 of taxpayer money on alcohol. 

Former Denholm Mayor Gaétan Guindon officially resigned on March 24 after he was charged with driving a municipal vehicle while intoxicated on Oct. 5, 2022, in Cantley. He pleaded guilty on Jan. 29 at a Gatineau courthouse, was ordered to pay a fine of $1,500, and was prohibited from driving for the following 12 months. 

Guindon, who has been at the helm of the small municipality east of Low since 2013, had his mayorship terminated by Quebec’s Directorate of Investigations and Prosecutions in Municipal Integrity (DEPIM) on March 25 – a day after he delivered his resignation to the municipality. 

The DEPIM noted that Guindon’s conviction for the drunk driving incident automatically bans him from holding public office, as he is in breach of section 302 of the Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities, which states that a person convicted of an offence punishable by up to two years or more in prison is “disqualified from holding office as a member of the council of a municipality.”

Denholm deputy mayor Sara Turpin told the Low Down that Denholm will hold a by-election this spring to fill the mayor’s vacant seat, which carries a mandate until November 2025.

“Because he has lost his driver’s licence because of alcohol, this was the reason he was kicked out by the municipal commission,” Turpin said. “It’s not only because he was driving a car of the municipality; it’s just that when you are guilty of that act, you cannot be a mayor anymore.”

But Guindon’s troubles in office don’t stop there. The DEPIM also alleges that Guindon used a municipal credit card to purchase $3,470 of alcohol over a three-year period. 

“Between Jan. 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2022, Mr. Guindon allegedly used, on several occasions, the municipality’s resources for personal purposes, directly incurring expenses of $3,470.71 for the purchase of alcohol, thus contravening article 5.4 of the 2018 Code and article 5.2.2 of the 2022 Code,” reads a citation from the DEPIM.

Turpin said that the municipality is still waiting for a judgment from the DEPIM regarding the alleged fraud of using a municipal credit card. She couldn’t comment on when that case could conclude. 

According to one councillor, who wished to remain anonymous, Guindon “did some good things over the years,” but his recent actions let both councillors and taxpayers down. 

“People are upset about this,” said the councillor, who told the Low Down that Denholm spent close to $30,000 in lawyer fees on this case. “And it’s the residents who are paying with their taxes. It’s disappointing, for sure. It’s a big lack of judgment.”

The councillor told the Low Down that he thinks Guindon will be forced to pay back the municipal money he spent on alcohol but added that councillors won’t know more until the DEPIM renders a judgement. 

The Low Down reached out to Guindon for comment, but he did not respond.

In the meantime, mayoral candidates can submit their names until April 19, with the vote taking place on May 19. 

It’s not the first time Denholm has had integrity issues in the municipality with a population of less than 1,000 residents. In 2018, the then-director general and secretary-treasurer was convicted of fraud after she used a municipal credit card for personal expenses including phone bills and cash advances. She spent $10,000 of taxpayer money and was given a suspended sentence and three years of supervised probation. 

Across the river in Low, a former assistant secretary-treasurer was also convicted of theft and fraud in 2019 after she stole $4,424 while working as secretary-treasurer.

She was sentenced to 12 months of house arrest.

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