Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson has responded to Friday’s (March 17) press conference held by all eight city councillors, who rebuked his plans to shake up the city's standing committee structure.
On March 16, Hamer-Jackson announced his plans for new committee appointments that included nine residents on the five committees, including two — Darpan Sharma and Randy Sunderman — who ran for council last October but were not elected.
Part of the changes included removing three councillors from their positions as chairs on committees.
Standing committees meet to discuss issues specific to their areas of focus (such as finance, development, protective services) and send recommendations to council, which, as a whole, has final say on whether those recommendations will be enacted.
Under the Community Charter, only the mayor can create standing committees and appoint members to it, with at least 50 per cent of those on the committees required to be council members.
In a statement released on March 18, Hamer-Jackson said he is making the changes for the betterment of the community and to unburden council's workload.
On March 17, all eight city councillors held a press conference and Coun. Katie Neustaeter read a prepared statement on behalf of the councillors, which included allegations against the mayor.
After the statement, the eight councillors refused to take questions from the media pertaining to the allegations and the statement in general.
Neustaeter said councillors have found themselves “combatting the chaotic and unpredictable behaviour of our mayor that leads to confusion and misinformation.”
Neustaeter also claimed Hamer-Jackson had belittled, disrespected and repeatedly violated personal and professional boundaries of councillors — something the mayor disputed in his statement.
"A prepared statement was read aloud by Councillor Neustaeter, which was rife with untruths and personal allegations against me, all based on the false premise that they had been 'disrespected' and excluded from a process that is the Mayor's duty to perform," Hamer-Jackson said his statement.
Hamer-Jackson said the proposed changes to the standing committees were emailed to the eight city councillors, city CAO David Trawin and city legislative services manager Maria Mazzotta at about noon on Thursday, March 16. Shortly after, he said, the list of committee appointments was sent to media.
KTW did receive the revised committee membership and reported on it.
In disputing the councillors' statement, Hamer-Jackson called on councillors to further explain themselves.
"In the days and weeks ahead, they will be invited to provide the public with any factual basis for their statements, in the interests of both truth and accountability," he said.
The mayor also called for the person who leaked the email to identify themselves and apologize.
"...The individual who leaked this confidential email to the media should take personal responsibility, and should publicly apologize to the citizens of Kamloops for their irresponsible conduct," Hamer-Jackson said.
A complete copy of the mayor's statement is below:
"Shortly after noon on March 16, 2023, I directed City Council's Executive Assistant to forward a proposed list of Standing Committee appointees for 2023 to our eight (8) City Councillors, to CAO David Trawin, and to Legislative Services Manager Maria Mazzotta. My purpose in doing so was to invite their input and discussion on the changes that I felt were necessary to improve the effectiveness of these committees. The e-mail attaching the proposed list was sent to each of them at 12:19 p.m. that day.
"Under s.141 of the Community Charter, mayors of municipalities in British Columbia have the sole authority to establish or change the memberships of standing committees. However, I chose to involve all of Council and senior staff in this process, in this manner, well in advance of the next regular Council meeting where the changes would be presented and debated publicly. The proposed changes were, and remain, a work in progress with one or more further appointees to be added.
"Unfortunately, one of the recipients of my confidential e-mail chose to release the list of proposed committee appointees to the media within minutes of receiving it, without my knowledge or consent.
"Our eight (8) City Councillors then staged a media event on Friday, March 17, 2023, in which they publicly attacked this initiative. A prepared statement was read aloud by Councillor Neustaeter, which was rife with untruths and personal allegations against me, all based on the false premise that they had been "disrespected" and excluded from a process that is the Mayor's duty to perform. In their statement, Council members acknowledged the value of accountability and transparency in municipal governance. In the days and weeks ahead, they will be invited to provide the public with any factual basis for their statements, in the interests of both truth and accountability. As well, the individual who leaked this confidential e-mail to the media should take personal responsibility, and should publicly apologize to the citizens of Kamloops for their irresponsible conduct.
"I would urge my fellow Councillors to put their bruised egos aside long enough to consider the merits of the changes that I am proposing, and the value that the new committee appointees will bring to our City."