Kamloops City Councilors are uniting against what they regard as the mayor’s “chaotic” and “unpredictable” behavior
The Kamloops City Council gathered at City Hall Friday afternoon to issue a joint statement condemning the mayor’s actions over the past few months.
“While we, all eight councillors, would prefer to do the work we were elected to do by our citizens, we instead find ourselves fighting our mayor’s chaotic and erratic behavior that is causing confusion and misinformation. “ Count. Katie Neustater read from a collective statement.
This comes after the mayor shuffled committees and removed council members from their seats without consultation on Thursday, the council says.
“Contrary to the public statements made by Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson [Thursday], no Councilor you see before you today has ever expressed a wish to be quote “relieved of our burden of work”. No council member has ever expressed that they were “kind of overwhelmed”. No chair has shown a citation, “lack of commitment” or conflict,” Neustater said.
“These are examples of blatant untruths.”
Kamloops This Week, the local newspaper, reported that several council members had been removed as committee chairs and replaced by members of the community.
The mayor has defended his actions, saying he has been working on new board placements “for quite some time”.
“That was a positive thing,” he told CBC. “If we can get more people involved in the city, you know, on our committees, why wouldn’t we?”
He said the people he chose for the committee roles have experience with the portfolios for which they were chosen.
Hamer-Jackson added that he and the council had until March 28 to make adjustments and he was disappointed that documents on new committee members would be made available to the media.
This isn’t the first time the mayor has made an unusual move; in December, he withdrew from an entire council meeting (less than five seconds), claiming he had conflicted with two items on the meeting’s agenda. Instead of returning after these items were handled, he disappeared.
And in November, just a month after his election, BC Housing shelter operators in the city asked him to refrain from unannounced visits and to bring in anyone who needs a bed — even to places that don’t operate shelters.
Council ‘subject to repeated disrespect’
In its statement, the council says it is concerned that the situation at City Hall is having an impact on citizens.
“While we, as council members, have faced repeated disrespect, violations of personal and professional boundaries, derogatory and constantly disruptive behavior from the mayor, we have been willing to absorb the impact in service to our community and in attempting to do city business as little as possibly compromised,” said Neustater.
“But we must draw a line when this erratic behavior directly impedes our ability as your democratically elected representatives to do our job.”
The council will hold a special meeting on Tuesday March 21 to discuss “a solution” to the problems they are facing.
It was not announced whether the meeting will be open or closed.
Hamer-Jackson said he wanted to end the “drama” at City Hall.
“I would say we need to end the drama and get to work,” he said. “Let’s get the boots on the ground. And that’s what I’m doing here. We’re getting more people to help. So why don’t we just forget about the drama?”
The impact of such a conflict can be “significant”: expert
Attorney Reece Harding, who has practiced local law for 31 years, said the Kamloops City Council is one of many local governments in BC that is having trouble getting along.
He said when local governments don’t get along, it trickles down to city employees and other entities in the municipal system.
“It affects the day-to-day running of local government, it affects individuals on a personal level. It affects morale,” he said, adding it could eventually affect staff employment.
Harding was appointed Ethics Commissioner in Surrey in July 2020, where he advised City Council on the city’s code of conduct and investigated complaints. His contract ended in 2022, but he is passionate about the need for more ethics commissioners in cities and communities across BC
“The beauty of having an office like an ethics commissioner that’s embedded in a community is that it gives elected officials a neutral third party that they can go to to discuss these issues and hopefully resolve some of them among themselves.” , he said .
Currently only Surrey and Vancouver have ethics commissioners.
Harding said the provincial government needs to offer more support to municipalities.
“Right now we have a small loophole in our legislation,” he said. “I think it’s high time the province started stepping up and providing better guidance to elected officials under our legal regime.”