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City councillor explains why Kamloops mayor barred from suspending employees

FILE PHOTO - Kamloops city councillor Mike O'Reilly is seen in this photo from X, formerly known as Twitter.
Image Credit: TWITTER/Mike O'Reilly

Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson was stripped of his authority to suspend seven employees last month.

It's one of the few unilateral powers held by a mayor in BC and councillors took it away in response to what they viewed as an unfair and "surprise" suspension of the City's top employee. But the restriction from suspending employees extended beyond just the City manager.

The seven people are all classified as "protected employees," according to a document provided to

That includes Byron McCorkell, along with others who Hamer-Jackson was already restricted from speaking to directly. When asked why three new employees were added to the list of those "protected" from the mayor, he said "we became more and more concerned" for them.

Councillor Mike O'Reilly said the City has a "legal duty" to protect its employees from bullying and harassment.

READ MORE: 'Courageous' Kelowna councillors are getting their raises

"We're very concerned about certain staff, and we took the extraordinary step of implementing measures to protect staff from mistreatment by the mayor," O'Reilly said. "That being said, this means the mayor is in an inherent conflict of interest regarding protected staff measures."

Four of the "protected employees" were complainants in a previous human resources investigation that started just months after the 2022 election. Hamer-Jackson was found to have bullied or demeaned three of those employees, according to the investigator's findings.

O'Reilly didn't say whether the three others were complainants in another investigation, nor did he provide any specifics about what the mayor might have done to those employees.

When a mayor suspends a city employee, BC law requires that the matter be addressed at the next council meeting for a vote. The suspension could be confirmed, extended or ended by council. The fourth option, to fire the employee, would require a two-thirds vote from council.

Hamer-Jackson planned to have the suspension addressed on April 9, which was the next scheduled meeting. Upon pressure from council, he suggested a compromise of Monday, April 1.

Because the suspension of acting chief administrative officer Byron McCorkell was ahead of a long weekend, with both backup chief administrative officers leaving on holidays, O'Reilly said council decided on an urgent March 28 meeting.

Hamer-Jackson was in Vancouver that day and didn't attend. Another councillor, Kelly Hall, was in Victoria, but he was able to attend virtually.

READ MORE: Kamloops mayor's authority to suspend employees stifled by council

After reinstating McCorkell, council neglected to tell the public Hamer-Jackson was now barred from suspending him and several others. The mayor learned when O'Reilly later handed him a document laying out the closed council decision.

Hamer-Jackson said it wasn't clear the document was confidential because it didn't say on the envelope. When asked about the mayor's claim, O'Reilly said he should have known because a duplicate email did explain the order was confidential.

"As per usual, the mayor is telling part of the story, which is part of a pattern for the mayor. He received an email marked 'privileged and confidential' with this document," O'Reilly said. "In no way, shape or form was the mayor unaware that this was a privileged and confidential document that could not be shared with the public."

Whether that email came directly from O'Reilly isn't clear, but Hamer-Jackson said if it did, he would not have read it.

"I don't check O'Reilly's emails as I am still waiting for responses from emails and questions I've asked him for six months now," Hamer-Jackson said in a text message to "I also get a 100 emails a day sometimes."

He got two more envelopes slipped under his office door today. He did not disclose what was inside to, but they were both directed to him and marked "confidential."

When asked about the suggestion that he has has a "pattern" of omitting details, Hamer-Jackson said he's "not going to slam councillor O'Reilly."

"In the workplace course I did take... I learned there's a lot of things you don't do like that."

Council will head to its first open meeting since McCorkell's brief suspension today, April 9. Despite previous suggestions from the mayor that he will address his reasons for suspending McCorkell, he told that he will "reserve" his thoughts for now.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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