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Belleville, Ont., councillor asks council to reconsider how it fills vacant seat

A Belleville councillor says he has been receiving a strong reaction from the public about how council has chosen to fill a vacant seat. Global News

Following the death of a city councillor in Belleville, Ont., late last year, another councillor is asking his colleagues to reconsider how the vacant seat is filled.

Long-time councillor Pat Culhane died Nov. 8, 2020. The decision on how to replace her has become a topic of debate in Belleville.

Read more: Belleville city council mourns death of veteran councillor Pat Culhane

The options before council were to appoint a new councillor or hold a by-election, which would cost a minimum of $200,000.

It’s traditional to appoint the next runner from the previous election to fill a vacant seat, but the motion to appoint that runner up, Tyler Allsop, failed last month in a split four-four council vote, as did a motion to strike a committee to select an individual.

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Mayor Mitch Panciuk then decided to create an adhoc committee to appoint a member of the public.

This committee has been asked to give regard to women, visible minorities and the LGBTQ2 community in their selection process, something that would most likely eliminate Allsop.

Click to play video 'Controversy in Belleville over plan to replace open Ward 1 council seat' Controversy in Belleville over plan to replace open Ward 1 council seat
Controversy in Belleville over plan to replace open Ward 1 council seat – Dec 18, 2020

Current councillor Garnet Thompson, who himself gained a council seat in 2006 as a runner-up filling a vacant seat, says his phone and emails have been lighting up with people demanding that Allsop be appointed to council.

This is why Tuesday, he presented a notice of motion warning his fellow council members he will be asking them to reconsider their decision at the next meeting.

Thompson needs at least six votes to even allow debate of his motion.

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— With files from Global News’ Mark Ladan and Darryn Davis