Former London Police Services Board member calls on tentative replacement to step aside

Ryan Gauss was appointed to the vacant London Police Services Board seat by London city council on June 27, 2023.
Ryan Gauss was appointed to the vacant London Police Services Board seat by London city council on June 27, 2023. Bethanys Hope Foundation

The former chair of the London Police Services Board in Ontario is calling on her tentative replacement to step aside before it becomes official.

London councillors voted Tuesday night during a Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee (SPPC) meeting to appoint Ryan Gauss to fill the vacant seat left by Susan Toth, who resigned as chair and board member in January. Gauss would be filling a regular seat, as Ali Chahbar was elected chair following Toth’s resignation.

Gauss is currently the director of operations for London-North Liberal MP Peter Frangiskatos and formerly served as campaign manager for Mayor Josh Morgan in 2022.

During her resignation speech in January, former chair Toth had said she hoped her replacement would be a visible minority. Reacting to the news of the tentative appointment Wednesday, Toth called it “sad” and “disappointing” that council did not go in a more diverse direction.

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“It was just really unfortunate that they picked the status quo instead,” Toth told Global News.

“I think the right thing to do for him… (is to) step aside and allow an opening space for a diverse member.

“Truly that would be a sign of great leadership right there.”

Toth underscored that Gauss is qualified for the role and a committed community member but added other applicants were equally qualified and would have added more diversity to the small oversight board.

Currently, the only board member with a diverse background is the new chair, Chahbar. The other members are vice chair Megan Walker and regular members Nancy Branscombe, Morgan and Couns. Steve Lehman and Susan Stevenson.

When asked about possible criticism that would follow his pending appointment as a white man when there were calls for a diverse selection, Gauss lauded Toth’s work in the community while underscoring his belief that he has the credentials for the job.

“I believe I have the experiences that line up with the appointment and that is why I sought it out,” said Gauss. “I’ve spent my life working with underrepresented and marginalized communities and asking questions, listening, learning from them and that will not change.”

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Outside of the pollical realm, Gauss worked for 10 years in a civilian role for the RCMP, holding positions that included administrative assistant, divisional training adviser and human resource adviser. He is also currently the board chair for the Bethanys Hope Foundation.

The SPPC, which is made up of all city councillors, took only three rounds of voting to select Gauss ahead of 53 other applicants to fill the seat on the seven-member board.

Councillors were allowed one vote for any of the candidates in the first round. Those receiving votes then moved on to a runoff election before an official motion was passed appointing the first person to receive a majority of the votes, which is eight.

After the initial vote to narrow down the candidates, only three remained: Gauss, Zeba Hashmi and Joseph Wabegijig.

Hashmi, a Muslim woman, currently serves on the board of directors for the London Public Library and Covent Garden Market and is involved with multiple London Muslim organizations. Hashmi previously ran as a Liberal in the 2022 Ontario election and served as a campaign team member for Morgan in the 2022 election.

Wabegijig is currently serving with the Wikwemikong Tribal Police Services Board and as an adviser for the Ontario Clean Water Agency. He has experience as an elected councillor with his home First Nations community of Wikwemikong.

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In the first round of the runoff, Gauss received six votes from the following councillors: Deputy mayor Shawn Lewis, Steven Hillier, Paul Van Meerbergen, Steve Lehman, Peter Cuddy, Susan Stevenson and Jerry Pribil.

Hashmi received one vote from Morgan, with Wabegijig getting the remaining six votes from Anna Hopkins, Hadleigh McAlister, Sam Trosow, Skylar Franke, David Ferreira and Corrine Rahman. Coun. Elizabeth Peloza was absent through all rounds of voting.

With Hasmi receiving the lowest amount of votes, she was dropped from the ballot, and Morgan voted for Gauss in the second round of the runoff, with all other votes staying the same, resulting in Gauss receiving the required eight votes.

In an official motion following the runoff votes, all councillors voted for Gauss to be nominated.

Should Gauss not step aside before the appointment is made official, Toth is calling on councillors to change their pending nominee at next week’s regular council meeting.

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“Ultimately city council has a whole week to really look deep within themselves and really say what is important, what voice do we need on the police board,” said Toth.

“We already have the voice of the predominate demographic… what we need is a voice that is coming from those underrepresented communities.”

Council is set to meet on April 4 to confirm the appointment.

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