London, Ont. council return to Gauss for police board, ending months-long search

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

The months-long saga of city council appointing a resident to the London Police Services Board closed Tuesday after councillors voted to nominate the same person initially selected in March before they reversed course days later.

In a narrow vote, council voted for Ryan Gauss to be the citizen appointee to the governance board.

London councillors voted in favour of Gauss over four candidates: Michele Anderson, Gita Canaran, Stephen D’Amelio and Joseph Wabegijig.

As laid out by councillors during the over hour-long debate and vote process, the crux of the issue was weighing lived experiences and bringing new backgrounds to the small board versus work experience with police and political officials.

In the end, the contingent favouring Gauss won out, with Couns. Elizabeth Peloza and David Ferreira voting for Gauss after previously supporting a different candidate in the process.

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“I wish we could put a couple of people on the board,” Peloza said, adding that for her, the issue was “trying to balance that lens of the policy and governance aspect someone could bring to the table versus the lived experience.”

Each councillor was given one vote, with the lowest receiving candidate (plus anyone that got zero) being dropped off on each successive ballot until someone received a majority plus one.

In the first round, Gauss received seven votes from members Peloza, Jerry Pribil, Peter Cuddy, Paul Van Meerbergen, Steven Hillier, Steve Lehman and Susan Stevenson.

D’Amelio received six votes from members Corrine Rahman, Hadleigh McAlister, Skylar Franke, Shawn Lewis, Sam Trosow and Mayor Josh Morgan. Wabegijig got two votes from members Ferreira and Anna Hopkins.

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Before the second round, which included only Gauss and D’Amelio, Coun. Hopkins excused herself and did not return for the remainder of the debate.

All votes remained the same in the second round except for Hillier switching to D’Amelio and Ferreira moving his vote to Gauss, resulting in a 7-7 tie. Per city policy, a deadlock resulted in a runoff vote between Gauss and D’Amelio. In the runoff, Hillier switched his vote back to Gauss, giving him the majority.

A confirmation vote for Gauss went 12-3, with McAlister, Franke and Trosow opposed.

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Those who spoke in favour of Gauss during the meeting cited his work as the director of operations with London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos and previous experience in multiple civilian roles with the RCMP.

“I know bringing in a new chief from out of the area will bring with it some challenges, and I think Mr. Gauss’s experience in his role with the RCMP will be a great value,” said Lehman, who serves on the police board alongside Morgan and Stevenson.

Many councillors who spoke in favour of D’Amelio, cited his lived experience as a Black person and member of the LGBTQ2 community as desperately needed at a time when tensions around gender diversity topics rise. His work with London Pride and various other committees with organizations within the city was also raised.

Deputy mayor Lewis said how D’Amelio bridged the concerns of Black people and those with London Pride about local police being involved in Pride festival events, “speaks volumes to the value he would bring to the police services board.”

But in the end, Ferreira cast the deciding vote on the matter. Speaking to his colleagues, Ferreira said plainly two candidates stood out the most to him, Wabegijig and Gauss, in that order.

The half-a-year saga began in January when former chair of the board Susan Toth announced she was resigning less than two months after she was reappointed. Ali Chahbar was elected chair in her place, but her seat was still left to be filled.

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City councillors tentatively approved Gauss in a close 8-6 vote over Wabegijig at a committee meeting in late March. However, Toth and six other former members of the police board called on council to reverse its decision, which it did the following week.

At a later committee date in April, members opted to select five candidates to be interviewed and then voted on at council for a final decision. The interviews took place behind closed doors at a special strategic priorities and policy committee meeting on June 5.

Speaking after the vote, police board chair Chahbar said he and the board were pleased to finally be on the verge of having a full contingent for the first time in half a year.

Chahbar says he reached out to Gauss soon after the vote to congratulate him on the confirmation.

“Mr. Gauss brings a lot to the table from his policing background to his political background,” said Chahbar. “I think there’s a skill set, a background and an expertise that will serve him well.”

Staff with the police board previously informed Global News that the swearing-in of the new member will likely be done at the earliest convenience of both the selected member and board staff.

And while Gauss may be sworn in at the earliest convenience, he won’t be in a meeting for a couple of months. The next police board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 21.


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