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Can Kamloops council fracture be fixed?

The new year has started as last year ended — with the mayor and council at loggerheads

Kamloops city councillors are considering an expansion of the deputy mayor role after newly elected mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson was absent from a team-building workshop last week.

The Jan. 10 meeting involved councillors, chief administrative officer David Trawin and a facilitator discussing subjects such as council’s strategic planning, communication issues and orientation follow-up.

The meeting was scheduled a few months ago and Hamer-Jackson had attended two similar sessions following the Oct. 15 civic election.

Hamer-Jackson told KTW he was in the midst of returning from vacation in Mexico over the Christmas break — delayed returning home until Jan. 11 — and had previously informed Trawin and the executive assistant for mayor and council that he would not be attending the Jan. 10 meeting.

Hamer-Jackson added that, had he been in the city, he still would not have attended because he believes he — not the CAO — should be the one organizing and leading council team-building meetings.

Coun. Mike O’Reilly tweeted a photo from the workshop showing Trawin and all members of council except the mayor and Coun. Bill Sarai (who is on vacation in India) around a table with the caption, “Working as a team is one of the biggest parts of having a successful council.”

Coun. Dale Bass is deputy mayor for January and said she has been authorized to speak on behalf of the rest of her council members. She said it was not lost on councillors that people would notice, from the tweet, that Hamer-Jackson wasn’t there.

Bass told KTW council is frustrated that the mayor missed the meeting, adding he did not inform councillors as to why he wouldn’t be in attendance.

“Right now, we want to confront the fact that he is remaining outside of the team,” Bass said, arguing the importance of attending team meetings should have been obvious. If the mayor isn’t in attendance when council discusses how to approach strategic planning, how to engage with the community and how nine individuals can work together, Bass said, then he will never find a way to work with council.

“And I think that’s apparent right now,” she said.“The mayor doesn’t seem to understand that he also needs to learn to be part of the team. He seems to think he’s the team builder and, in many ways, he has been because we’ve had to work without him around.”

Mayor “not impressed” with team-building meeting

Hamer-Jackson is a first-time politician, as are councillors Kelly Hall, Stephen Karpuk, Margot Middleton and Katie Neustaeter, all of whom were at the meeting.

Hamer-Jackson said he “wasn’t impressed” with the first team-building meeting he attended with the facilitator and indicated he felt the meetings are too costly, noting he has learned the price tag of such meetings are up to $8,000.

“The taxpayers of Kamloops, they had an election already. And I know some people don’t like it, but I was voted the leader of mayor and council. I’m the mayor, so I’m going to start having team-building meetings with individual councillors and start building the team,” Hamer-Jackson said. “We don’t need to spend a bunch of money having a facilitator trying to build teams.”

Hamer-Jackson said he informed Trawin and his executive assistant he would return to work on the morning of Jan. 12.

Trawin said the mayor informed him five days before the team-building workshop that he wouldn’t be in attendance. Hamer-Jackson told him he had planned meetings in the Okanagan instead. The CAO said he notified council, which decided to have the meeting anyway, noting some councillors were frustrated the mayor was opting not to attend.

Asked if he needs to communicate better his whereabouts with council, Hamer-Jackson said he doesn’t have to discuss with council every meeting he takes, nor do they need to do that with him.

Mayor’s absences prompt discussion on deputy mayor role

Hamer-Jackson has also been notably absent from some public events in the first couple of months into his four-year term.

It has led to council discussing a change to the deputy mayor role.

Bass told KTW that during the Jan. 10 team-building meeting, council came to the conclusion that Hamer-Jackson is not comfortable speaking in public, so they are drafting new terms of reference for deputy mayors to take on more duties.

On Nov. 25, deputy mayor Mike O’Reilly gave a speech at the announcement of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc bid for the 2027 North American Indigenous Games. Bass said O’Reilly did so because the mayor was not in attendance at the start of the event, but arrived midway through.

On Nov. 28, Hamer-Jackson didn’t attend the opening of the Kelson Hall Centre of Arts and Education — a multi-million-dollar donation to the city from the Fawcett family. O’Reilly accepted the keys to the building on the city’s behalf as deputy mayor. During the next day’s council meeting, Hamer-Jackson said he didn’t attend the opening because he felt it wasn’t his place to take credit for the project, noting the emphasis should have been on the city’s recreation, social development and culture manager, Barbara Berger, for the work she’s did on the file.

Bass, as deputy mayor this month, travelled in Hamer-Jackson’s place to Victoria last week with the city’s external relations manager, Tammy Robertson, and Tk'emlúps Kúkpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir. There, they accepted a BC Reconciliation Award.

In that instance, Hamer-Jackson again said he felt a staff member was a better representative of the city, noting Robertson’s work on the reconciliation file.

Hamer-Jackson told KTW it’s not true that he doesn’t want to attend events, but added he doesn’t feel he should attend those in which others are better suited to speak on behalf of the city.

“I don’t want to take credit for everything,” he said.

Bass said while many may find public speaking difficult, it shouldn’t be too hard to muster a simple thank you at events.

Hamer-Jackson said he doesn’t feel the deputy mayor position should change, while Bass said she and her fellow council members are prepared to step in and take on tasks with which the mayor may be uncomfortable.

“But he’s still got to be part of the team,” she said.




—This story was updated from an earlier version that incorrectly stated Hamer-Jackson was intent on meeting with mayors during his planned trip to the Okanagan. He, in fact, had meetings with other individuals, whom he did not wish to disclose, but has previously met with other mayors to discuss his job.