Fragiskatos not concerned about political staffer seeking police board appointment amidst diversity questions
Despite mounting criticism over his pending appointment to the police board, Ryan Gauss is still interested in the seat.
On Tuesday, council members selected Gauss over 53 other candidates to fill a seat on the London Police Services Board (LPSB) vacated earlier this year by lawyer Susan Toth.
Gauss’ appointment would leave the seven person police board with only one member from a diverse background, Chair Ali Chahbar.
“If you don’t have people in that space representing the Indigenous community, is that community really going to step up to serve when they don’t see a place for themselves at the table?” Coun. Elizabeth Peloza asked.
Peloza is a Métis woman.
She was absent from Tuesday’s committee meeting when council chose Ryan Gauss (eight votes) over Indigenous applicant Joseph Wabegijig (six votes) for a seat on the London Police Services Board.
Gauss isn’t backing down despite a call by Toth to step aside.
He told CTV News London in a statement, “Assuming council supports the formal nomination, as committee of the whole did unanimously on Tuesday evening (14-0), my interest to serve in this capacity remains.”Mayor Josh Morgan and Ryan Gauss prior to the 2023 State of the City Address. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London)
To be clear, Gauss received the narrowest majority — 8 votes (out of 14) during the actual selection process when council chooses between candidates.
However, once a candidate receives a majority of the support during the selection process, council members usually come together to fully support that individual with a formal motion.
That result was 14-0.
Gauss worked for over a decade in a civilian position with the RCMP. More recently, he was the campaign manager for Mayor Josh Morgan during the 2022 election.
Morgan voted for Gauss during the deciding round of the selection process and said he believes the board is diverse because it has gender parity and the chair is from an under-represented group.
Currently, Ryan Gauss works as director of operations and personnel for London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos.
Fragiskatos told CTV News London in a statement that the appointment is council’s decision to make, “The board itself is not tied to the federal government. As his employer, I do not have any concern with Mr. Gauss serving our community in this capacity.”
Fragiskatos said that Gauss consulted with the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Federal Ethics Commissioner that determined being on the police board would not breach any ethics laws.
He added that it’s not uncommon for staff of MP’s to serve on community boards.
Joseph Wabegijig finished second in the selection process to fill a vacant seat on London’s Police Services Board. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London)However, New Democrat MP Lindsay Mathyssen of London-Fanshawe said her staff understand the concerns that can be raised by seeking roles on outside boards, “I always try to be very, very clear with the people in my office.”
Mathyssen believes it’s important to keep commitments to Truth and Reconciliation in mind, and said, “Make the room that hasn’t been made in the past, [so] that we hear from that diversity of voices.”
Second place finisher Joseph Wabegijig, who received six votes during the selection process, has expressed disappointment.
He has served on the Wikwemikong Tribal Police Services Board, which is one of Ontario’s largest First Nations police boards, and held an advisory role to the federal government and prime minister’s office.
He was recently hired as the executive director of Atlohsa Family Healing Services.
Peloza said that council has taken a strong stance supporting diversity and inclusivity in its draft 2023-2027 Strategic Plan.
She intends to raise her concerns to colleagues prior to next week’s vote, “Lived experience, either of themselves or of others that they’re close to, brings that lens to the table. It’s really important for me and that will be what I’ll be speaking to.”
Council will consider finalizing its appointment to the LPSB on Aug. 4.
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