Friday, January 29, 1999

Lila Sarick

Sgro holds on to post with police board

Outspoken councillor acclaimed as vice-chair after rival's surprise withdrawal

Councillor Judy Sgro, who has been an outspoken critic of police in the past, was acclaimed yesterday as vice-chairwoman of Toronto's Police Services Board.

In a surprise move, lawyer Jeffrey Lyons withdrew his bid for the position, saying he did not want to divide the seven-member board.

Earlier in the week, Mr. Lyons, who has been far less vocal than Ms. Sgro in criticizing the police, was said to be assured of the seat.

Yesterday, he said that pressure from local politicians and the public persuaded him to withdraw.

"I've listened to the public. I've listened to the councillors. I've listened to all the board members and I want this to work. I'm not here to have competitions, only if it's in the best interest of the board and the public," he said after the meeting.

To underscore his plea for unity on the board, he kissed Ms Sgro after he withdrew his bid, and the two held an impromptu news conference together after the vote.

Among those who called Mr. Lyons earlier this week were Mayor Mel Lastman, who asked him to reconsider running. Mr. Lyons said he told the mayor he would not change his mind.

Several councillors supporting Ms. Sgro sat in the front row yesterday, as a reminder to councillors Sherene Shaw and Norman Gardner that their terms on the board would be subject to a council vote in June.

Ms. Sgro denied that any deal had been made behind closed doors and she said she learned only five minutes before the meeting started that Mr. Lyons did not intent to contest the position.

Ms. Sgro, who represents North York Humber, has questioned the force's handling of strip-searches, police pursuits and the Jane Doe case. (Jane Doe is the name under which a Toronto woman won a civil suit against the force for failing to warn her that a serial rapist was active in her neighborhood in 1986.)

As Ms. Sgro accepted the nomination, she told the board that Toronto's police force is "the best."

"And if I'm asking questions, its because I always want them to get better. You can never be complacent."

The Police Association had made no secret of its opposition to her and at one time had wanted to launch an ad campaign criticizing politicians such as Ms. Sgro.

She said her re-election sends a strong message to the police union. "The board is unified and they are supportive of where we're going and I guess I should keep on doing the job I'm elected to do."

Toronto Police clippings... [Fiona Stewart]

Created: March 6, 1999
Last modified: March 8, 1999

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