"This story aims to destroy me", launched the 50-year-old elected official, visibly tense, at the opening of the debates before his municipal assembly, in front of an audience and the media who came in large numbers.
"The manhunt is open (...) some do not have the patience to wait for justice to do its job (...) the temptation is too strong to try to finish off a man caught in a media storm that crushes everything," he said in a heavy silence.
The city of 175,000 inhabitants has been agitated since the end of August by this intimate video affair which prompted a complaint for blackmail from the former centrist first deputy Gilles Artigues - absent from the debates on Monday, "on the advice of his doctor", as the underlined one of the centrist advisers.
For two hours, the left-wing elected officials (12 seats out of 59) and one of the four UDI elected officials gave voice to try to convince the mayor elected since 2014 to resign, while his majority remained silent, preferring "not to express" on a case under investigation.
“Each passing day damages our city and feeds the compost of all rotten”, worried Pierrick Courbon, the leader of the left. "True false starts are not enough," he said.
"You no longer have moral legitimacy", accused the communist Michel Nebout, accusing Gaël Perdriau of "clinging to his post".
"Leave! ..... You had asked for the withdrawal of François Fillon", without waiting for the result of the judicial investigation, when the right-wing presidential candidate of 2017 was mired in accusations of nepotism and corruption, "Why not apply it to yourself?", added the centrist Lionel Boucher.
The left-wing municipal group and then the two elected Communists left the session in turn, refusing to take part in the deliberations.
- "Farewell" -
The scandal prompted mayor LR to dismiss his chief of staff last week and then to renounce his representative functions in the city and the Metropolis, while one of his deputies, namely accused of having shot a compromising video to neutralize politically Mr. Artigues, tendered his resignation.
The three men were placed in police custody in mid-September after the confessions of a former close friend of the town hall on the Mediapart site, accusing the mayor and his entourage of having fomented this "barbouzage de manners" by paying him via benefits. fictitious billed to two cultural associations subsidized by the town hall.
Monday, the mayor repeated again that he had "never had, never seen, never used" this video where we see Gilles Artigues being massaged by a man in a hotel room in Paris, in January 2015. "To say what you tell me is to condemn me and not to respect the presumption of innocence", he launched to the opposition.
His image, however, was tarnished by damning audio recordings broadcast by Mediapart, widely quoted by opposition politicians during the debates. We hear Gaël Perdriau talking about this video with his ex-first deputy, referring to a broadcast "in a small circle, with parsimony", in a conversation dating from July 2018, according to Mediapart. "Once it's on the networks, it's no longer blackmail, it's an execution," he said in another recording from November 2017, still according to Mediapart.
The city council was held as around 150 demonstrators including union activists demonstrated loudly outside the town hall, demanding the mayor's resignation. A group of Stéphanois "who want to fight it out" also organized a "starting party" for him at the end of the day.
The association "Pink Triangle" calls for its part to denounce the "nauseating ambient climate" by denouncing "attacks, insults and rumors" linked to the sexual orientation of people.