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Kamloops mayor explains reasons behind committee changes

Nine residents have been added, with some councillors demoted from chair positions
Kamloops mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson gives his inaugural address during a swearing-in ceremony at Thompson Rivers University on Nov, 1, 2022.

Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson said he has added residents to standing committees for the betterment of the community and to unburden councillors’ workload, noting he had been considering the change for some time.

KTW has obtained a copy of the new makeup of five committees, each of which has met only once since the Oct. 15 election.

Hamer-Jackson has added nine people from the community — including Bud Smith, the former Kamloops Social Credit MLA and former B.C. attorney general, and two failed 2022 civic election candidates, Randy Sunderman and Darpan Sharma — to the committees.

Coun. Kelly Hall was removed as chair of community and protective services and added to development and sustainability, in place of Coun. Mike O’Reilly, who was scrubbed from that committee entirely. Coun. Bill Sarai was demoted on community relations and reconciliation, going from chair to member.

Hamer-Jackson told KTW he was surprised some media outlets had obtained the document.

“I’ve been working on this for quite a while,” Hamer-Jackson said.

He said he had corporate services seek legal advice and received confirmation from city CAO David Trawin that he could implement the change.

Under the Community Charter, the provincial legislation that governs how municipalities operate, non-council members are allowed to be appointed to standing committees, as long as at least half of the committee members are council members. Only the mayor has the power to create standing committees and appoint members. According to the Community Charter, standing committees are created by the mayor “for matters the mayor considers would be better dealt with by committee.”

However, council can establish select committees and appoint members, as long as each select committee includes at least one member of council. According to the Community Charter, select committee are formed to “consider or inquire into any matter and to report its findings and opinion to the council.”

Hamer-Jackson conceded there has been some “drama” between himself and members of council.

Asked what he has to say to anyone who may view the committee changes as retaliation for those conflicts, Hamer-Jackson said people who believe that are those who want drama.

“This is looking for solutions,” Hamer-Jackson said. “The people I’ve added to these committees are going to take us to the next step of solutions.”

Hamer-Jackson said the nine people he is adding to the committees are experienced citizens in the areas covered by the five committees, residents who want to be involved. He said the appointments will help councillors on the committees.

“I didn’t just get them off the Schubert river bank,” Hamer-Jackson said, alluding to members of the city’s homeless who camp along the Thompson River. “How can this hurt?”

Hamer-Jackson said he is making the changes to standing committees because no councillors have “stepped up” to form select committees — committees that are known for including members of the public.

Asked why he removed some councillors from their chair positions, Hamer-Jackson said he feels Hall is busy with preparations for the 2023 Memorial Cup in May and does not believe community safety is a priority for him. Hamer-Jackson noted Sarai is chair of two other committees, with the mayor believing the committee formerly chaired by Sarai — community relations and reconciliation — needs a chair with more focus.

“I think it might be a little overload,” Hamer-Jackson said of Sarai’s multiple chair positions.

As for O’Reilly, Hamer-Jackson said he feels the councillor may be in a conflict of interest by remaining on the development committee, given he is president and CEO of Comet Industries, the group behind the pending Iron Mask industrial park project. Hamer-Jackson also noted O’Reilly’s wife works in the city’s planning department.

Hamer-Jackson, however, added himself to the community and protective services committee — a committee that has been dealing with issues with the municipality’s mini-storage facility for the homeless at 48 West Victoria St. Hamer-Jackson has recused himself from recent council votes pertaining to that facility as he has been repeatedly advised by corporate officer Maria Mazzotta of his potential conflict of interest on matters relating to that space as he owns a nearby business. Hamer-Jackson has heeded that advice on two votes at council.

He told KTW he does not believe he would be in a conflict of interest, however, by sitting on that committee.

“How can I be in a conflict trying to protect the whole community?” Hamer-Jackson asked.

The mayor said he believes councillors have felt overworked from the deputy mayor position alone, adding he is trying to relieve them of some of their responsibilities.

Many of his nine public appointees have personal connections to Hamer-Jackson.

Former MLA Smith is the new chair of the community and protective services committee, Sunderman, president of the Kamloops Voters Society, is the new chair of the development and sustainability committee. Deborah Newby, a retiree who served on Hamer-Jackson’s election campaign, has been named chair of the community relations and reconciliation committee, which is also adding former Tk’emlúps councillor Sonny Leonard. Brandon Coyle, who owns Bailey’s Pub, has been added to the community and protective services committee.

Canadian Home Builders’ Association-Central Interior president Tom Calne has been added to the development and sustainability committee. Bill Swaine, with Emil Anderson Construction, and former City of Kamloops employee Jim Budnaryk have been added to the civic operations committee. Sharma, who was vocal on the campaign trail about city spending, has been added to the finance committee.

Hamer-Jackson told KTW no councillors have reached out to him to express how they may feel about the changes.

“How do they feel? They should feel happy because they’re getting more help and we’re going to be able to come to solutions quicker,” Hamer-Jackson said.

He said if any councillors are considering resigning from standing committees, it would not bode well for the community.

When contacted by KTW, Hall said by text that he was busy preparing for Thursday night’s (March 16) Kamloops and District Chamber of Commerce event featuring Hamer-Jackson and Tk’emlúps Kúkpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir and would comment on Friday.

Coun. Dale Bass, speaking on behalf of council, told KTW she and her fellow councillors has no comment yet on the mayor’s decision on the committees.

It is expected that council will issue some kind of statement on Friday.

Council committees make recommendations to city council to consider for passage, but power ultimately rests with a plurality of the nine members around the council table to determine what, if any, recommendations are voted through.