Kamloops mayor says sex photo incident on 'list' of reasons he suspended top city official

Mayor defends suspension

Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson says he has "a list" of reasons why he decided to suspend city hall's highest-ranking employee, and one of them has to do with a high-profile incident earlier this month in which a compromising photo was sent by the mayor to the local chamber of commerce.

Hamer-Jackson suspended deputy CAO Byron McCorkell on Tuesday afternoon, telling Castanet Kamloops he also wanted to see more movement when it comes to tackling street disorder.

“I don't see a lot of change. I just think we need to take our city in a different direction,” Hamer-Jackson said.

McCorkell, who has worked for the city for more than 25 years — including as the director of community and protective services — was officially named deputy CAO in the fall. He stepped in to lead the city in early March when it was announced CAO David Trawin would be away on personal leave for an undetermined amount of time.

A special council meeting has been called for Thursday afternoon to address Hamer-Jackson’s decision. The mayor will not be in attendance, with a trip booked for the long weekend.

Council is expected to reinstate McCorkell.

Hamer-Jackson said he had been putting together more information about his decision to suspend the deputy CAO for presentation at a regular council meeting on April 9. He said he wouldn’t be available for Thursday’s special meeting as he had previous plans to travel to Las Vegas with his family.

Slideshow on mayor's 'list'

When asked why he chose to suspend McCorkell — less than a month after he took over the top job at city hall — Hamer-Jackson said he is making “a list of things," and there’s “lots of things” on that list.

“I'd say that one that I really want to figure out is that, you know, I don't know if you guys know but it's legal in a public place to take pictures of people,” Hamer-Jackson said, referencing photos taken for a slideshow he intended to put together for a mid-March Kamloops and District Chamber of Commerce event.

When preparing for his speech, Hamer-Jackson had asked for others to submit images showing what is happening on city streets. He forwarded the photos — including one which showed a photo of a sex act — to the chamber.

The day after the chamber event, McCorkell replied to an inquiry from Castanet Kamloops, saying the city had been alerted to the potential of a slideshow being presented by the mayor which might have included pictures of vulnerable people in “compromising settings” — which could have violated criminal law, intimate images legislation or Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act regulations.

He said staff acted quickly and advised the chamber the PowerPoint presentation would be scrapped and replaced with a large City of Kamloops logo behind the mayor during his speech.

Hamer-Jackson said he wasn’t actually going to show pictures of people struggling with mental health and addictions on the streets.

“I was never going to show any sexual acts,” he said.

“I wanted to show, you know, like I said, the good and the bad, but I didn't even get a chance to vet the pictures. I didn’t even get a chance.”

Mayor says it was time

Hamer-Jackson said the chamber presentation situation was just “a piece” of why he chose to suspend McCorkell.

“There’s a list of things, and the biggest thing is, is that I believe we need to get our city going in a different direction,” he said.

The mayor added he’s tired of hearing that street disorder-related issues are “the same everywhere,” and has been continually getting emails from businesses about the impacts of crime and vandalism.

“I feel it's been a year and four months and I haven't seen a lot of change on the streets,” he said.

He said he hopes he has the will of council when it comes to McCorkell’s suspension.

“If I do have the will of council, I respect, you know, Deputy CAO McCorkell. He’s worked for the city for a long time. And I wish him well, you know, he's done a lot of good things in the city,” Hamer-Jackson said.

Councillors, city back McCorkell

Coun. Mike O’Reilly, deputy mayor, said he found out Tuesday afternoon that Hamer-Jackson had suspended McCorkell. He called the mayor's decision “unprecedented and irresponsible.”

O’Reilly noted while the Community Charter does allow for the mayor to suspend a municipal officer or employee, the measure is in place for emergency situations.

“Not for one day when the mayor has a beef or an issue with somebody," he said.

Maria Mazzotta, the city’s corporate officer, said the Community Charter grants the mayor the power to suspend municipal officers, but the suspension must be reported to council at its next meeting — and council as a whole has the final say.

Under the Community Charter, council can opt to reinstate a municipal officer or employee who has been suspended by the mayor.

In a statement, city councillors said they “continue to have the utmost confidence in acting CAO McCorkell.”

“He has worked loyally and diligently for the city for more than 25 years, serving the public energetically and enthusiastically and always putting the city’s best interests ahead of his own,” the statement said.

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