London city council decided it would be one of them who will ride out the term as interim mayor on Monday (June 23).
They voted to formally accept Joe Fontana’s resignation as mayor and declared the seat vacant, then agreed on a process to replace him suggested by city clerk Cathy Saunders at their regular meeting on Tuesday (June 24).
Fontana announced his resignation on Thursday (June 19), almost a week after being convicted of fraud, breach of trust and forgery.
On Tuesday each councillor will be asked whether they would let their name stand for the position, starting with Ward 1 Councillor Bud Polhill and ending with Ward 14 Councillor Sandy White. They’ll vote in open session (it would be illegal to do otherwise), with the person who gets the fewest dropped from the ballot until a winner is found.
Acting Mayor and Ward 3 Councillor Joe Swan said the decision was the product of “sadness” and “difficulty” but provided a chance for the city to move forward. He said the last few days as acting mayor have shown him the “tremendous” respect London residents have for the office of mayor.
Ward 2 Councillor Bill Armstrong said he wanted a provision that the person selected mustn’t be running for office in the Oct. 27 municipal election, but Swan had city solicitor James Barber explain that they couldn’t really place any conditions on the applicant.
Barber explained the councillors had up to 60 days to fill the mayor’s seat and could elongate the process beyond choosing someone on Tuesday to include a sort of mini-campaign, asking the applicants to produce a kind of platform outlining their intentions. But he and Saunders agreed that with the election coming on Oct. 27, it would be in the “interests of the city” to choose someone quickly.
Ward 4 Councillor Stephen Orser was solo in his desire to open the race for interim mayor up to the public, arguing it would be “undemocratic” for councillors to choose from amongst themselves.
“The slate of nominees should include anyone who’s qualified,” he said. “Let’s see who comes forward.”
For his part Polhill said he hopes council will stand united behind the new interim mayor at the end of the process.
“We need to end the bickering amongst us and get this work done.”
The mayoral selection is set for 5 p.m.
Fontana announced his resignation effective 10 a.m. June 19 in written statement, cancelling a promised press conference.
In the statement Fontana said he had envisioned his final days in office, but that he must “walk this path alone.
“I have learned that we will be measured not only by what we do but by how we choose to carry our burdens.”
Fontana said he intends to focus on his family and won’t run again.
“They have sacrificed for me for 32 years. I will not return to public life.”
Ontario Superior Court Justice Bruce Thomas will hear sentencing arguments from the Crown and defence on July 15.
With no mandatory minimum sentence for the charges he has been convicted of, Fontana could receive anything from an absolute discharge to a prison term.
The news release issued Thursday didn’t indicate whether Fontana would appeal the convictions.