An attempt by the city of Montreal to recover about $268,000 that former mayor Michael Applebaum received in severance before being convicted of fraud was rejected on Monday by Quebec Superior Court. The judge ruled that legislation making such a refund obligatory did not exist at the time Applebaum was paid.
“The court finds it difficult to see how it would have been possible to think that the Quebec legislator, when (the article requiring a refund was adopted) decided without clearly saying so to put aside so important a presumption as that which forbids the application of prejudicial consequences of a punitive nature to conduct carried out entirely before that law came into effect,” wrote Justice Serge Gaudet.
The judge said the city’s lawsuit was rejected on the ground that “the reprehensible acts committed by the defendant were committed before the coming into effect” of the regulation.
The ruling confirms the argument made before the court by Applebaum’s lawyers, who contend that since their client received the payments before the regulations came into effect he shouldn’t have to reimburse the city.
Applebaum resigned from office a day after his arrest on corruption charges in 2013. He was convicted of fraud against the government, conspiracy, corruption in municipal affairs and breach of trust in 2017.
Shortly after leaving office, he received $159,719 as a transition allowance, which the city says is given to outgoing politicians to help them transition back to private life. He also received $108,204 in “departure pay” from the city.
Provincial regulations passed in 2016 require former elected officials to reimburse any transition allowance received if found guilty of fraud or other crimes punishable by two years or more in prison.
The law was amended in 2018 to force elected officials to also return departure pay. Montreal filed the lawsuit in 2017.