Kamloops mayor's authority to suspend employees stifled by council | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops mayor's authority to suspend employees stifled by council


In the same meeting Byron McCorkell was reinstated as the top employee at Kamloops city hall, council barred the mayor from suspending him again, plus six other employees.

Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson suspended acting CAO McCorkell on March 26. Two days later, councillors predictably reinstated McCorkell and announced as much to the public.

What the news release didn't say is that council deemed the mayor a legal liability.

The mayor provided iNFOnews.ca a copy of the new restrictions, which takes away one of the few unilateral powers a mayor has in BC. Council decided to hand off the authority instead to the deputy mayor, a title that rotates monthly among the eight councillors.

The order finds him "unable to act" on "personnel matter" for seven staffers, dubbed the "protected employees." They are high-level staff, including McCorkell and David Trawin, the chief administrative officer who is currently on leave.

It's not clear how the city will respond to the mayor's decision to release the closed council decision publicly.

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The decisions is intended to "prevent further actual or potential loss or damage and any retaliation" caused by the mayor's suspensions.

Council found the restrictions are necessary because Hamer-Jackson's actions can be "reasonably interpreted" as interfering with city employees and failing to act in the "best interest of the municipal corporation." It also says he may have broken conflict of interest, confidentiality and privacy laws.

"I think it's terrible. They went into that room, it was supposed to be a specific issue about deputy CAO McCorkell, then they extended these measures," Hamer-Jackson said, referring to previous workplace rules that limit who he can speak with directly or without someone overseeing the conversation.

Most of the employees listed who Hamer-Jackson can't suspend were already "protected" under those conditions, but two more were added. It's not clear why and the mayor claimed he does not know.

Councillors won't comment on the move as the decision was made in a closed meeting. Multiple councillors said fellow councillor Mike O'Reilly is the spokesperson for this specific issue, but he has not returned phone calls from iNFOnews.ca.

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Legislation allows for mayors to suspend employees unilaterally when they deem it "necessary," but it's not without oversight. A municipal council has to address the suspension at its next meeting, and a mayor needs a two-thirds vote if they want to fire that employee. There is no mention of a limit to how many times it can be tried.

On March 26, Hamer-Jackson suspended McCorkell, more than a week before the next council meeting and in the lead-up to a long weekend.

Councillors called an urgent meeting for March 28 in response, which Hamer-Jackson said he couldn't attend. He said he tried to compromise and meet the next week, as he would be in Vancouver on March 28.

The eight councillors met that Thursday afternoon and hours later issued a news release stating McCorkell had been reinstated, with no mention of additional restrictions place on the mayor.

Hamer-Jackson continues to suggest four councillors are in a conflict of interest by voting on employment matters related to McCorkell. They have immediate family members that work for the city in various departments. While none of them work directly under McCorkell, the acting chief administrative officer is in charge of all employees within the municipalities.

In a March 28 news release, council refuted that claim as "without legal merit."

"In a situation involving the pecuniary interest of a family members or other conflicts, individual Council members have an obligation to recuse themselves. That is not the case in this instance," the news release read.

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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