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The council strikes back

Kamloops councillors respond to mayor’s committee shakeup, claim mayor has harassed members while in office
Coun. Katie Neustaeter reads a statement on behalf of Kamloops council on March 17, 2023. Behind Neustaeter (from left) are councillors Stephen Karpuk, Margot Middleton, Mike O'Reilly, Kelly Hall, Nancy Bepple and Dale Bass (off camera and not shown).

During a March 17 press conference, Kamloops’ eight city councillors issued a scathing rebuke of Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson and his move to shuffle standing committees.

Speaking on behalf of council, the member of which stood behind her in council chambers, Coun. Katie Neustaeter refused to take questions after she addressed the media, citing the need to get back to work as councillors were engaged in Thompson-Nicola Regional District strategic planning.

Neustaeter read out a prepared statement.

She said councillors have found themselves “combatting the chaotic and unpredictable behaviour of our mayor that leads to confusion and misinformation.”

The mayor this week added nine members of the public to standing committees and removed three councillors as chairs.

According to Neustaeter, Hamer-Jackson ignored councillors’ requests to have input on adding members of the public to standing committees despite repeated requests. She said the mayor also did not meet with any councillors to express his concerns with them as chairs.

“In fact, no member of this council has been invited by the mayor to participate in any meaningful, consultative, team-building or respectful conversation in many months,” Neustaeter said.

She said council is upset there was a process that wasn’t open to all members of the public, adding council’s concern is not a reflection of how council views the mayor’s hand-picked committee appointees.

Neustaeter also claimed Hamer-Jackson has belittled, disrespected and repeatedly violated personal and professional boundaries of councillors, though she did not provide examples or specify her allegations.

“We’ve been willing to absorb the impact in service to our community and in an attempt to have city business compromised as little as possible, but we must draw a line when this erratic behaviour directly obstructs our ability as your democratically elected representatives to do our jobs,” Neustaeter said.

She said no councillors, despite public comments made by mayor Hamer-Jackson, have asked to be relieved of their workload or expressed being overwhelmed. No committee chair has shown a lack of commitment, nor are they in a possible conflict of interest over their committee appointment, nor is council making changes to relieve the deputy mayor’s job of some duties, Neustaeter said, responding to reasons cited by the mayor in making changes to the committees.

“These are examples of blatant untruths,” she said.

Neustaeter went on to say council will be holding a special council meeting on Tuesday, March 21, with the goal to “remedy these troubling changes to the committee structure.”

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

Coun. Dale Bass said council was not taking questions from media due to legal advice; however, that was not the reason given by Neustaeter.

City of Kamloops corporate officer Maria Mazzotta told KTW there was no prohibition council taking questions nor was instruction given to Neustaeter not to take questions.

However, Mazzotta said there may have been a concern that answers to questions could breach procedure.

Mazzotta said for council to debate and make decisions on an issue, it must do so in a properly called council meeting, which was not the case with Friday’s press conference.

“There’s always a risk with questions that it could stray into that territory of looking like they’re expressing opinions that may lead to decision-making down the road,” Mazzotta said, noting the March 21 special meeting will be council’s opportunity to make those decisions.

The meeting will be held at 11 a.m. and, according to city CAO David Trawin, it will be open to the public.