London, Ont., Mayor Ed Holder says he’s “horribly disappointed,” but “unfortunately not surprised” after Ward 1 Coun. Michael van Holst spoke at an anti-COVID-19 vaccine mandate rally on Saturday.
Holder shared the remarks during a media briefing on Monday, where he condemned van Holst’s actions.
On Tuesday, Holder filed a complaint with London’s Integrity Commissioner Gregory Stewart regarding van Holst’s actions.
“This was a decision made after significant deliberation, and not without some measure of regret,” Holder said.
“I take no delight in pursuing this course of action. However, I believe fundamentally that our responsibilities as elected officials are paramount, along with the Code of Conduct for Members of Council to which we’ve all sworn to adhere.”
Holder reiterated his comments made Monday, saying, “he’s openly and visibly defying and undermining council policy by virtue of his participation.”
On Monday, Holder also said that he wouldn’t be surprised if others filed complaints.
“Council, as most know, does not have the ability to sanction a fellow councillor. Those decisions are at the sole discretion of our integrity commissioner.”
Described by Holder as “anti-vax nonsense,” Saturday’s rally saw hundreds gather in front of the band shell at Victoria Park and was organized by Chris “Sky” Saccoccia, who gained fame during the pandemic for speaking out against health protocols related to COVID-19.
van Holst declined to provide an interview with Global News, but did say that he attended Saturday’s in order to promote his creed, the Order of Freedom.
The councillor launched the creed in late September and previously told Global News that he did so in order to prevent what he views as “government overreach.”
On Monday, van Holst told Global News that he has “no comment” regarding the mayor’s decision.
City clerk Cathy Saunders says London’s integrity commissioner would follow a council complaint protocol, regardless of who filed the complaint.
The code of conduct of councillors, along with details on the integrity commissioner’s role, can be found in its entirety on the City of London’s website.
“The first thing that the integrity commissioner would do is look at the complaint and determine whether it falls under his jurisdiction and if it fell under the code of conduct,” Saunders said.
“The integrity commissioner would then ask both the complainant and the member of (council) to provide a written response to the complaint, and that would take more or less about 20 days.”
If the integrity commissioner decides the complaint should be investigated, the protocol allows for another 90 days before the complainant and the complained-against councillor are notified.
Penalties are set out in the Municipal Act and may include a verbal or written apology, a reprimand or a suspension of pay for up to 90 days.
“It varies, it depends on the type of complaint, I would say, and it could just end up in mediation,” Saunders added.
The integrity commissioner would have to recommend any penalties, along with all findings from investigating the complaint, in a report to city council.
City council then has to grant final approval before any penalties are implemented and has 90 days to provide a response.