Advisor to Kamloops council says mayor urged to change conduct; mayor believes court case looms

Mayor must change conduct

The municipal advisor who published a detailed report on the root of Kamloops council’s governance issues says he’s urged the mayor to let go of grudges and work with councillors — while the mayor says he thinks the matter will be settled in court.

Henry Braun, the former mayor of Abbotsford, was tasked by the province in February to speak with council, provide coaching, and produce a report with governance recommendations.

Braun attended a committee of the whole meeting Tuesday to present his final report. He concluded council’s issues are largely due to Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson’s combativeness and unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions or admit fault — with “minor contribution by councillors in reaction.”

Braun said without a significant change in how the mayor interacts with others, he isn’t optimistic there will be any improvement.

“The mayor is a fighter. He's told me that — he’s not a quitter, he’s a fighter. And he's demonstrated that to me throughout this whole process. I said, you know, 'You're the mayor,’” Braun said, adding a mayor is responsible for building a team.

Braun noted Hamer-Jackson seems to have taken that phrase to mean something different than what the advisor intended to convey.

“That doesn't mean he can run roughshod over council. The mayor needs four people to join him, to do something or not do something," he said. "That isn't happening. It's not healthy for the city.”

Behavioural recommendations

Braun’s report, which came after months of background research, attending council meetings, and speaking with council members and city staff, outlined 23 recommendations — 10 specifically for the mayor, and 13 for all nine members of council.

Braun recommended Hamer-Jackson should actively seek and be open to constructive criticism, and admit misunderstandings or mistakes. Braun told council he asked Hamer-Jackson at their final meeting if the mayor thinks he may have done anything that might require him to fix a bridge or apologize.

“He said no, he's done nothing wrong and made no mistakes, and won't apologize for anything,” Braun said. “I had my last phone call with the province and said ‘There’s no point in me going up anymore. Don’t want to spend your money needlessly. I’m going to start writing my report — and I did.’”

Hamer-Jackson objected.

“I didn't say made no mistakes. And I also did say to you from the beginning that probably what's going to solve this, if somebody doesn't step up to the plate and tell the truth, that this is probably going to be resolved in a Supreme Court file,” Hamer-Jackson said.

The mayor also tried to discuss something that happened in January 2023 and bring up other details pertaining to a particular staff member before being stopped by the city’s deputy corporate officer who reminded him about privacy laws.

Braun also has recommended Hamer-Jackson let go of perceived slights.

“The mayor brings up examples of things that happened long before even the election. …I said, 'Mr. Mayor, you got to get past this. This isn't helpful. And it's going to eat you up if you don't let go of this.’ So that's what I was trying to do — and I obviously failed,” Braun said, referring to Hamer-Jackson’s reaction to his report presentation.

Mayor will not step down

Hamer-Jackson told Castanet Kamloops he felt he was “interrupted several times” while trying to defend himself during the committee meeting — which culminated in a motion, adopted 8-1, to ask the mayor to resign.

“I believe that this is going to get settled in the Supreme Court but again, you know, it's not like I've never said that I haven't made any mistakes. We all make mistakes. I've always said that part, but no, I'm not going to step down,” Hamer-Jackson said.

When asked why a court case was needed, the mayor said it was because he felt there’s “a lot of information missing.”

He then noted he hadn’t had a chance to read Braun’s report and would be able to say more once he did. He said he “respect[s]” what Braun has done, but questioned his credentials.

Braun is a former president and CEO of a nation-wide railway company, and was first elected as a city councillor before serving for two terms as mayor of Abbotsford. He was at the helm when the city suffered devastating flooding during the November 2021 atmospheric river event.

“I asked the question, you know, if he has an investigative license, or, you know, if he has ever investigated or done reports like this, or has any type of law degree, and I just think that there's a lot more information,” Hamer-Jackson said.

“Unless people want to step up to the plate and tell the truth about the matter, then, yeah, we'll be forced to go into a court.”

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