New Kamloops mayor skips entire council meeting due to 'conflicts of interest' | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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


The mayor of Kamloops watched this afternoon's council meeting from home after declaring "conflicts of interest" and stepping away at its outset.

"I'd like to recuse myself of this meeting due to potential conflicts of interest, and I'd like to turn this meeting over to councillor Sarai," Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson said, as Bill Sarai took over the mayor's seat.

Hamer-Jackson told he recused himself from the entire meeting largely because of a closed council meeting that he wasn't allowed to join.

"They just had the closed council meeting they announced this morning," he said. "I don't know nothing about it, but it did have the City lawyer involved."

Because it's a closed meeting that he wasn't in, he said he doesn't know many details. He also couldn't legally provide details about the meeting if he did know what transpired.

"They've got a ten page report that I can't see, my lawyer can't see, but everyone else can," Hamer-Jackson said.

He decided today, Dec. 6, after the closed meeting that he would step away from the council meeting because of a possible conflict of interest and because of claims of defamation against ASK Wellness.

When asked whether he recused based on legal advice, he said "not exactly." He didn't say whether his own personal lawyer or City lawyers offered him advice on the decision.

He said the other reason for recusing himself centred around a staff report about homelessness and security in the city, a subject which was his main focus on his election campaign less than two months ago.

"When you can't ask questions because you could defame somebody, because their name is in the report, that's not a good thing," Hamer-Jackson said.

He headed home to watch the rest of the meeting online.

Hamer-Jackson pointed to letters between his lawyer and ASK Wellness as his reason to step away.

The initial letter from the social agency behind several efforts to support the city's homeless and most vulnerable, included an offer to work together rather than against each other.

It also suggested Hamer-Jackson has defamed both the organization and CEO Bob Hughes in previous interviews.

"All we're waiting on is a retraction," he said.

He didn't specify ASK Wellness by name in the interview, but it's the only organization that's claimed defamation. He suggested ASK Wellness' "threat" of legal action after claiming he defamed the organization is still unresolved. Until the issue is put to rest, he feels he'll be in conflict by asking any questions of city staff about relationships with ASK Wellness and funding the City directs toward the organization.

"(The staff) report didn't have to be brought to the table today. We're waiting for a letter back from an agency that's threatened me," he said. "I wasn't going to vote for the agenda. I was going to oppose it myself."

Why he needed to step away from the entire meeting isn't clear, but it's often up to a councillor or a mayor to decide for themselves if they're in conflict with anything on the meeting agenda.

"Well when you're a mayor, you're in a bit of a different spot," Hamer-Jackson said. "There's items in there that could affect those agencies... I don't agree with spending $1 million on security. I don't agree with spending $90,000 on picking up needles. It's just accountability, I guess."

Council didn't vote on that staff report, which included updates on the revised bylaw department, grant spending on initiatives homeless services and security and agreements with B.C. Housing.

"I'm not going to continue to recuse," he said. "Is every meeting going to have information about that organization (ASK Wellness) or about those people? What's going on here? ... Why did this report have to come right now?"

The Dec. 6 meeting was his fourth city council meeting as mayor since the inaugural meeting on Nov. 1.

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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