Kamloops mayor to be excluded from another meeting of council | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops mayor to be excluded from another meeting of council

FILE PHOTO - Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson (right) is pictured here speaking at the inaugural council meeting on Nov. 1, 2022.

Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson wants to put the conflicts of interest and legal issues behind him to focus on City business, but he's expected to sit out another meeting today where he'll be the focus of a discussion between council and the City's lawyers.

The City's chief administrative officer David Trawin told iNFOnews.ca the afternoon meeting today, Dec. 8, is a continuation of a meeting from Tuesday morning. Hamer-Jackson spent two hours of that meeting in his office after he was ushered out of the room.

Trawin said time constraints meant council had to postpone a part of the confidential agenda because of the regular public meeting scheduled Tuesday afternoon. He's requesting council have an in camera meeting at 3 p.m. today. Because of solicitor-client privilege, the contents of that meeting must be kept confidential.

Hamer-Jackson recused himself from the entire Dec. 6 regular council meeting, citing potential conflicts of interest, ostensibly because of possible legal action between himself and the non-profit ASK Wellness.

He also told iNFOnews.ca that a City lawyer delivered a legal opinion directed at him and which covered potential conflicts of interest at the closed council meeting Tuesday morning but he couldn't provide more details on that legal opinion.

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Because it was a meeting closed to the public, it's not entirely clear what the meeting was about. Councillors and staff can't speak publicly about the details from an in camera meeting.

Municipal governments use closed meetings to discuss anything related to land, labour or legal issues. If and when that information is released publicly is up to a council to decide in a vote and is determined on a case-by-case basis, Trawin said. Today, he expects the decision from the private discussion to come sooner rather than later.

"I'm sure we'll be releasing something after this meeting," he said. "I do know there wasn't a vote at the last meeting to release anything."

Hamer-Jackson's lawyer David McMillan said the mayor should not have been excluded from a meeting that was specifically about him.

"He's the guy who should know what the opinion is of City solicitors," he said.

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McMillan said the closed meeting included a ten-page legal opinion from a City lawyer.

Hamer-Jackson did tell iNFOnews.ca he was able to see the written opinion briefly, but that he wasn't able to keep a copy of it. He didn't share any details about the contents of the pages.

"They spent, as I've learned, days preparing a ten-page legal opinion that is adverse to the mayor's interests," McMillan said.

However, the lawyer also claimed the City breached its own procedure and "slipped" a discussion with a City lawyer that would exclude the mayor onto the agenda without voting on it.

"What they did is they blindsided him. They excluded him from a meeting that they had no right to have," McMillan said, adding today's meeting is a "do-over" to "retrace their steps."

Trawin disputed that claim as completely untrue, reiterating that today's meeting is a continuation so council can come to a decision.

It's still unclear why Hamer-Jackson recused himself from the entire regular council meeting on Tuesday afternoon, rather than just the topic he could be in conflict with.

READ MORE: New Kamloops mayor skips entire council meeting due to 'conflicts of interest'

It's also unclear what the legal opinion is about. It could be related to what Hamer-Jackson says is an ongoing dispute with ASK Wellness over claims he defamed the organization.

What is clear is that Hamer-Jackson expects he will continue to recuse himself from anything related to either ASK Wellness or the Canadian Mental Health Association, both of which are heavily involved in supporting the local homeless community and drug users.

"I would recuse myself," he said when asked if he would participate in discussions or council votes on anything related to CMHA. That would rule out most City business related to homelessness, a topic which was the foundation of his election campaign.

Hamer-Jackson didn't provide an explanation as to why. 

"CMHA threatened him with legal action a year-and-a-half ago, before he was even in office," the mayor's lawyer said.

Hamer-Jackson will be waiting until legal issues with both CMHA and ASK Wellness are resolved, but it's not clear when that could be or what it would require to do so.

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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