Kamloops mayor leaves entire council meeting, citing potential conflict of interest

RHJ leaves council meeting

Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson recused himself from the entirety of a Tuesday council meeting declaring a potential conflict of interest.

Hamer-Jackson didn’t specify which agenda items he had a conflict with or why he believed there may be a conflict of interest. Hamer-Jackson did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment from Castanet Kamloops.

Hamer-Jackson left the meeting immediately after declaring the potential conflict of interest, turning his chair duties over to Coun. Bill Sarai.

Tuesday’s agenda included a report from Carmin Mazzotta, the city’s social, housing and community development manager, which detailed actions taken by city staff in response to motions approved by the previous council in the areas of health services, social housing, safety and security.

Councillors also discussed an amendment to the city’s tree protection bylaw and number of rezoning and development variance permit applications.

Hamer-Jackson has been vocal in his criticisms of social service providers in the past. BC Housing has expressed concerns about Hamer-Jackson visiting North Shore shelter Moira House unannounced, and weeks ago, Radio NL published letters exchanged between lawyers representing ASK Wellness and Hamer-Jackson.

Legal counsel for ASK Wellness raised concerns about Hamer-Jackson’s statements about the agency, suggesting his comments were defamatory, and expressing a desire to work together to address social issues. A reply from Hamer-Jackson’s personal lawyer asked for a retraction of that suggestion and an apology.

It is unconfirmed whether Mazzotta’s report was the cause of Hamer-Jackson’s declared potential conflict of interest.

Hamer-Jackson also owns a business on West Victoria Street, which could be another potential source of the perceived conflict.

City of Kamloops CAO David Trawin said it’s always up to the individual councillor or the mayor to declare their own conflict of interest.

“My understanding — again, you’ll have to clarify with him — my understand is that because the initial report by Mr. Mazzotta had some issues in it that pertained to ASK Wellness that he declared a conflict of interest,” Trawin said.

“You’ll have to talk to him why he stepped out for the whole meeting. There may have been other conflicts of interest that I’m not aware of.”

Former city councillor Arjun Singh posted on Twitter that it was the first time he had seen a Kamloops mayor recuse themselves from an entire meeting, and noted that typically, more specific reasons for declaring a conflict of interest are mentioned publicly.

“If this declaration of conflict by the Kamloops mayor concerns the report on work with our most vulnerable citizens, what does this do to his work on the key issue on which he was elected?” Singh’s post said.

A key element of Hamer-Jackson’s campaign was taking action on issues related to homelessness, mental health and addiction, and crime.

Hamer-Jackson has called for a third party review of shelters and facilities operating on a harm-reduction model, and for more accountability for shelter providers.

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