Council changes direction on police board appointment

After receiving harsh criticism this week, members of London city council have decided to hit the pause button on appointing a new member of the London Police Service Board.

During a meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Josh Morgan’s motion to refer to appointment back to the Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee (SPPC) passed in a 13-2 vote.

Morgan and some council colleagues were criticized for voting to appoint Ryan Gauss, who had served as the mayor’s campaign manager, to the board.

Now, council will interview five candidates selected by SPPC and pick from that group.

“I’d like us to find someone who has the broad support of council,” Morgan said at the meeting.

Morgan’s motion was seconded by councillor Skylar Franke, who told her colleagues that the referral will “give us all an opportunity to reflect on this important decision.”

Only Paul Van Meerbergen and Elizabeth Peloza voted against referring the appointment process back to SPPC. Van Meerbergen said the committee had already decided on Gauss, while Peloza said she was concerned the new process would have the same outcome.

At the SPPC meeting on March 28, Gauss was approved by an 8-6 vote in the second round of voting.

In round one, Morgan supported Zeba Hashmi – who also worked on his campaign – while Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis and councillors Peter Cuddy, Susan Stevenson, Jerry Pribil, Steve Lehman, Van Meerbergen, and Steve Hillier voted for Gauss.

Councillors Hadleigh McAllister, Sam Trosow, Corrine Rahman, Anna Hopkins, Skylar Franke, and David Ferreira vote for Atlosha Executive Director Joseph Wabegijig – who has previous experience serving on Wikwemikong Tribal Police Services Board. Peloza, a Metis woman, was absent from the meeting.

In the final round of balloting, Morgan switched his vote to Gauss who then had the required support of eight councillors and was tapped for the role.

Gauss was then approved by a 14-0 vote so the committee could have a unanimous recommendation.

However, the community blowback on the Gauss pick was swift.

Currently, the police services board includes five white members and one person of colour, chair Ali Chahbar.

The seventh position came open when Susan Toth – who is also a person of colour – resigned earlier this year. She had just been appointed by council in December and has asked council to replace her with another person from a minority group.

Toth was among those in the media criticizing council after Gauss was selected at SPPC.

“I never want to discourage the power of pausing and reflecting. However, many of the comments continue to suggest a lack of understanding of EDI and representation and truth and reconciliation. This despite that already being part of City policy,” Toth said when reached for comment on Tuesday. “It is still troubling that it took so much work from the BIPOC community and allies to have council take a second look at what occurred. So while I am glad that they are taking this seriously, harm has been done that will need to be repaired.”

Gauss was unavailable for comment when London News Today reach out.


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