Unionized city employees not the target of bullying from Kamloops politicians | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Unionized city employees not the target of bullying from Kamloops politicians


The City of Kamloops won't comment on bullying and harassment complaints surrounding elected officials, but they aren't coming from unionized employees.

That according to CUPE president Ken Davis when asked about the security measures that restrict mayor and council from accessing staff in municipal buildings, including city hall.

"To my knowledge, no member has reached out to me with any type of complaint against the mayor or council," Davis said.

The measures keeping politicians away from staff will continue while the city conducts a "security audit" of its buildings, contracted to an outside agency.

READ MORE: How Kamloops councillors and staff have leashed the mayor

While not every human resources complaint will rise to union leadership, it's unlikely that complaints spurring such a security measure would be kept from Davis and the Canadian Union of Public Employees local 900, which represents hundreds of city workers.

Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson's past behaviour toward top administration and a subsequent investigation conducted last year is well documented. These measures, however, come long after the investigation was completed.

Why the new security measures were initiated and what spurred the "audit" aren't known.

Not only does it restrict councillors from most areas at city hall, but also other city facilities.

Hamer-Jackson has been known to approach city facilities to see the site or speak with staff, like his first day in office when city administration stopped him before he could get an informal tour of a city facility with a union employee. Roughly a year later, he took iNFOnews.ca to tour the Noble Creek water intake facility while demolition crews were working to dismantle the site.

The city's director of civic operations, Jen Fretz, said there is an "increasing need" to keep staff, elected officials and the public safe.

"This is important in all areas of our business including, but not limited to, when we are interacting with the public," she said in an emailed statement.

But she wouldn't provide any details about where the complaints are coming from.

READ MORE: Kamloops councillor applauds development of downtown Crown land for housing

"It wouldn't be appropriate for me to speak about the bullying and harassment complaints that are being received," she said.

Hamer-Jackson asked staff about any "uptick" in bullying and harassment complaints against elected officials at a council meeting last week, questioning what prompted the restrictions on his access to city facilities. 

"I would say we don't. We have what we've been dealing with," acting chief administrative officer Byron McCorkell said.

The security measures came just days after the mayor released a confidential city hall report with complaints that he bullied city management.

Hamer-Jackson wasn't the first to give out the report to local media, but he is the first person to take credit for doing so.

Despite the close proximity to the release of the confidential report, one that city officials wouldn't admit exists even after a Freedom of Information request, there is no indication the security audit is related to information leaks.

It also came weeks after the mayor suspended McCorkell, a decision that was quickly overturned by the rest of council.

Meanwhile, Kamloops city council is looking for support among other southern Interior municipalities to bolster enforcement actions against elected officials.

READ MORE: FILLING THE GAPS: Getting ready for closure of homeless support centre in Kamloops

A motion up for debate at this week's Southern Interior Local Government Association annual meeting seeks to have local politicians protected as workers under WorkSafeBC.

"Due to the risk of continued and unconstrained bullying and harassment of staff at the hands of local elected officials, local governments and their taxpayers face significant legal exposure arising out of the unsafe workplaces in the form of costly investigations, wrongful termination claims based on constructive dismissal laws and increased legal costs," the motion read in part.

It's set to debated among leaders from across the region on May 1. If passed, they would ask the province to look at awarding local politicians WorkSafeBC protections, while also giving councils increased authority to suspend or disqualify other elected officials.

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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