The mayor of Kamloops called an audible and handed over a document to the city’s human resources boss on Friday to comply with a request from councillors and city staff looking to learn more about his alleged practice of secretly recording conversations — an allegation he denies.
Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson last week told Castanet Kamloops he would not comply with the directive from council to turn over recordings, transcripts and notes taken at his direction by a non-city representative during conversations with city staff when they were not aware another person was present. He said he would rather hand the items over to a representative of B.C.’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
That changed after the mayor received advice from a lawyer, he said.
“I always said that I was going to get advice,” the mayor told Castanet on Monday evening.
“It happened so quick. They went in and out of a closed meeting and into the media release before I was even aware of what was going on.”
Councillors voted unanimously in a closed-door meeting last month to compel Hamer-Jackson to turn over the materials. The move came after the mayor disclosed in an open council meeting that he had a secret recording of a conversation he had with city CAO David Trawin.
MAYOR'S WIFE RECORDED CALL
The mayor’s wife recorded the March 22 phone call while she and Hamer-Jackson were driving. He has said he was unaware the call was being recorded until his wife told him afterward. Hamer-Jackson maintains he has never personally secretly recorded a conversation as mayor.
Coun. Kelly Hall was one of a number of city councillors who attempted to discuss the matter with Hamer-Jackson last month before making council’s decision public. He said he’s glad the mayor decided to comply.
“I’m happy he made the submission,” Hall said.
“I’m happy he looked at the resolution and abided by the wishes of the resolution. There was a lot of conjecture in the community about whether or not he would — he himself made reference to that.”
The package Hamer-Jackson submitted includes a cover letter and a transcript of the Trawin call.
“I am not aware of any other audio recordings or transcripts of audio recordings in my possession or control of conversations between myself and any city staff member,” the letter reads.
The letter ends with Hamer-Jackson saying he is seeking legal advice with respect to the statement issued by the city on Sept. 28 in which city council asked Hamer-Jackson to turn over the materials and announced an investigator would be hired to look into his alleged practice of secretly recording calls.
NEXT STEPS STILL NOT CERTAIN
According to Hall, the city will now review the materials Hamer-Jackson submitted and decide on next steps. He said city human resources staff will likely meet with council sometime soon to make that determination.
“We will probably get together in the coming weeks to decide what course of action we want to have proceed,” Hall said.
“Is there an opportunity to work with him on what he submitted? Or do we have to look at another investigation? Who knows?”
Hamer-Jackson said he’s happy the Trawin call — which was about the Noble Creek irrigation system in Westsyde — was recorded.
“I’m glad, because the CAO should obviously want me to give more accurate information to Noble Creek users and the citizens of Kamloops,” he said.
“I was glad my wife actually did it because now we’ve got really accurate information of what I was told to tell them.”
TRAWIN CALL DISCLOSED
During the two-minute phone call, which Castanet Kamloops has listened to, Hamer-Jackson tells Trawin he is headed to Noble Creek to meet with residents about their irrigation system. He asks if there’s anything he should know.
Trawin told Hamer-Jackson the province has agreed to allow emergency works “to save the intake for this year.” He went on to say that the intake “is not a problem for this year.”
Kamloops City Council voted to decommission the Noble Creek irrigation system last month, but the city is looking into temporary pumping options to keep water flowing for system users next spring.
Castanet Kamloops asked Hamer-Jackson repeatedly whether he would assure voters he will not secretly record conversations. He refused to answer.
“When two people are having a conversation, I believe that it’s a really good idea in some cases, especially with some people, and some people who I have not been able to go into a room with and will not go into a room with and have a conversation with another person being there, I believe really important in a conversation to have that very, very accurate,” he said.
“So take it from there.”
Kamloops council has been beset by conflict since shortly after its inauguration last fall, when Hamer-Jackson became involved in a legal back-and-forth with the head of local social agency ASK Wellness. Months later, the mayor made a unilateral decision to appoint members of the public — including some friends and campaign supporters — to council committees, while removing some councillors from their appointments.
The mayor has launched a defamation lawsuit against a councillor stemming from remarks she made while reading aloud a joint statement in the wake of the committee appointments.
Prior to the secret-recording investigation, Hamer-Jackson was the subject of a code of conduct probe, which found he violated council’s code of conduct by disrespecting or demeaning three staff members, including the city CAO. The mayor is now bound by rules preventing him from meeting alone with certain city staffers, including Trawin.
Hamer-Jackson has since publicly asked to have the full report released, and has denied acting disrespectfully.