Hamer-Jackson withdrawing controversial committee appointments, but not backing down

Mayor withdraws changes

Embattled Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson has withdrawn his controversial hand-picked appointments to city standing committees, but he says he still hopes to have the nine citizens he tapped serve in the future.

Hamer-Jackson sent an email Friday evening to city council and senior staff advising them of the change.

The mayor told Castanet Kamloops he decided to make the move largely because of backlash the appointees have received.

“These people that have put their names forward have been called drinking buddies and all that other stuff, they’re getting phone calls and things like that,” he said on Saturday morning.

“For right now, I’m just going to take their names off the list.”

On March 16, Hamer-Jackson sent an email to city council advising them of sweeping changes to the membership of city standing committees. He removed some councillors from their roles and appointed nine citizens — some of whom were his supporters, donors and campaign workers.

The next day, the city’s eight councillors held a news conference during which a statement was read calling out the mayor for “chaotic and unpredictable behaviour” at city hall.

Council called a special meeting for Tuesday, at which it voted to temporarily suspend the city’s standing committees pending a review of their rules and structure.

Hamer-Jackson said the whole thing got blown out of proportion. He said he’s withdrawing the names to protect the appointees.

“I didn’t do this to make a media frenzy,” he said.

“I just don’t want them to be dragged around. Some of these people don’t even drink and they’re called my drinking buddies and my buddies. Come on.”

In the email he sent to council on Friday, Hamer-Jackson said he is hopeful the nine appointees “will still see a role for themselves when the mayor asks them again if they’d volunteer to help our city.”

He reiterated to Castanet that he wants to see them serve on committees once the review is complete.

“They’ve got ideas,” he said. “Just because they didn’t win the election, just because they didn’t buy 500 signs, that doesn’t mean they’re not worthy of helping the city.”

Two of the appointees — Brandon Coyle and Bill Swaine — donated to Hamer-Jackson’s election campaign last fall. Another, Deb Newby, worked on his campaign.

Appointees Randy Sunderman and Darpan Sharma ran unsuccessfully in October for seats on Kamloops city council.

At Tuesday’s special council meeting, Hamer-Jackson said he was open to discussing the appointments — contradicting what he told Castanet Kamloops the day they were made.

He also seemed agreeable to Coun. Katie Neustaeter’s proposal to put together a transparent process for citizen appointments.

Hamer-Jackson said Saturday he’s “open to look at anything,” but questioned what such a process might look like.

“What I’d like to know is how do you vet if you get 100,000 people that want to be on a committee? I think that’s why the Community Charter says that the mayor must pick,” he said.

“So how would that work? It’s nice to talk about, but how is it going to work? How is it going to be fair and equitable? I don’t know how that looks, and that’s what I’m saying.”

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