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Kamloops mayor on the defensive as council grills him over committee appointments

FILE PHOTO - Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson was grilled by fellow councillors for making unilateral decisions without explanation at a March 21, 2023, council meeting.

Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson was grilled by fellow Kamloops council members for making unilateral decisions without explanation at a meeting today.

Hamer-Jackson had no explanation when asked today, March 21, why he appointed acquaintances, including people who helped on his campaign and failed to get elected to council. One councillor grilled the mayor for leaving town rather than staying for today's meeting.

"If you're out there doing something on you're own, I have some concerns about that, and I think the residents of Kamloops are starting to get concerned," Coun. Bill Sarai said as Hamer-Jackson attended virtually.

None of the councillors appeared to get any answers about why the mayor chose acquaintances to sit on committees without first warning council or making his process clear.

"As for right now, these are the mayor's friends is how it's being received by the public," Coun. Mike O'Reilly said.

He was asked multiple times, specifically four times by Coun. Stephen Karpuk, how he came to choose someone working on his election campaign or failed council candidates for committees responsible for development, police services and First Nations relations, for example.

The mayor forced unilateral additions to city committees last week, ousting some councillors from leading three different committees at city hall. Councillors showed they're frustration by hosting a press conference this past Friday, calling out Hamer-Jackson for a lack of consultation with them and "chaotic" behaviour.

City council held a special meeting for today to potentially change who can lead those committees. Coun. Dale Bass voiced concerns about how non-elected committee members might handle confidential information.

Hamer-Jackson can, under B.C. legislation, appoint anyone he chooses to the City's five standing committees, so long as council makes up at least half of its members. They operate similar to a regular council meeting, often diving into more minute policy details than council as a whole normally would.

O'Reilly noted these committees do plenty of "heavy lifting" for the municipal government.

After the mayor failed to explain why he chose his appointments for those committees, incorrectly accusing council of trying to change provincial legislation in the process, council ultimately created a new committee to study the bylaws for its own committees.

Coun. Katie Neustaeter asked the mayor for details about his process to make his appointments and whether there was a democratic application process. She added she since had multiple people from the public suggest they would have applied if they knew there was an opportunity.

Hamer-Jackson didn't explain the process and said he'd also like to speak to those people, saying he still has his eye set on adding one more person to the finance committee.

"This isn't the end of the world. We can make changes," the mayor repeated several times.

Council has paused its five committees for the foreseeable future until the new group, to be appointed by council as a whole, comes back with clarity around confidentiality and membership of its five committees.

Hamer-Jackson was the only dissenting voter.

"I'm opposed to changing the Community Charter," he said while laughing as council agreed to form the new committee.

Corporate officer Maria Mazzotta clarified that no one on council has the power to change provincial legislation, and that it wasn't what was being done at all.

The increasingly embattled council is showing the public the mayor has very few, if any, allies on city council. This comes after he was accused of bullying and harassment by the eight councillors last week's joint statement.

It's not clear where the mayor was during today's council meeting. He attended via Zoom, but at no point did he turn his webcam on. He said he has plans for "fact finding" with other mayors on "successful" supportive housing projects.

It's also not clear whether he's left Kamloops already or which cities he plans to visit. He assured council he's making the trip on his own "dime."

"This is what our tax dollars are paying for?" a member of the public remarked after Coun. Kelly Hall hit his gavel to end of the meeting.

— This story was updated at 4:44 p.m., March 21, 2023, to clarify corporate officer Maria Mazzotta's comments to council.


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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