The embattled mayor of Kamloops is defending his controversial changes this week to committees, saying he was trying to consult with council and staff about the new appointments when the document was leaked to reporters.
Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson is also denying allegations of toxic and abusive behaviour in his interactions with councillors.
On Thursday, a document obtained by Castanet Kamloops showed the mayor made significant unilateral changes to the city’s standing committee appointments.
Hamer-Jackson chose to remove several councillors from chair positions, and added members of the public to each committee. Some of the citizen appointees are Hamer-Jackson’s friends and election campaign supporters, and two are failed election candidates.
On Friday, all eight city councillors presented a statement to media and some members of the public at city hall, noting their concerns with the “lack of an equitable application process” and “the neglect of unbiased vetting.”
Councillors also accused the mayor of lying about his rationale for making the committee changes and said he subjected councillors to repeated disrespect and belittling, as well as disruptive behaviour.
In a news release issued Saturday afternoon, Hamer-Jackson said he directed city council’s executive assistant to forward “a proposed list of standing committee appointments” to councillors, the city’s CAO and corporate officer on Thursday in order to invite discussion on the changes.
“I chose to involve all of council and senior staff in this process, in this manner, well in advance of the next regular council meeting where the changes would be presented and debated publicly,” Hamer-Jackson’s statement said.
However, in an earlier conversation on Thursday with Castanet Kamloops about the committee shake-up, Hamer-Jackson had said he “wasn't going to have a council meeting over it and let them vote about it.”
The community charter gives the mayor the authority to choose standing committee members.
Hamer-Jackson said he believes the individuals he selected will help improve the community.
“I would urge my fellow councillors to put their bruised egos aside long enough consider the merits of the changes I am proposing, and the value that the new committee appointees will bring to our city,” Hamer-Jackson's statement said.
In their joint statement, councillors said their concerns “are not a reflection of our views of the individuals that the mayor has handpicked to serve on committees,” but primarily about a lack of an equitable application process.
In his Saturday statement, the mayor said the proposed changes are “a work in progress,” noting he intends to add one or more further appointees.
“Unfortunately, one of the recipients of my confidential e-mail chose to release the list of proposed committee appointments to the media within minutes of receiving it, without my knowledge or consent,” Hamer-Jackson said.
He said the councillors statement was “rife with untruths and personal allegations.” He invited them to provide the public with a factual basis for their claims and asked the person who leaked the confidential email to apologize.
When speaking with Castanet Kamloops on Friday night, Hamer-Jackson denied belittling or disrespecting councillors both within the context of public council meetings and outside of council meetings.
“No, I haven’t,” Hamer-Jackson said.
“When you're making claims like that, you better be able to prove it.”
Castanet Kamloops has reached out to councillors for comment on some of the claims made in Hamer-Jackson's statement.