Kamloops council asks mayor to resign after scathing report from municipal adviser

Kamloops, B.C., city council has formally called on Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson to resign after a scathing report from a provincially-appointed municipal adviser was made public on Tuesday.

The report from former Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun took around three months to complete, and comes a little over a year into Hamer-Jackson’s term — which has seen the first-time mayor repeatedly clash with the eight other members of the Kamloops council.

It is particularly critical of Hamer-Jackson’s behaviour toward council and city staff, saying that the mayor has shown “a dismissive and condescending attitude towards constructive criticism or the suggestion of apologies,” and that his treatment of staff may have led to an unsafe work environment.

Hamer-Jackson’s reign has been particularly eventful for the B.C. Interior city of around 100,000 people. It has seen multiple investigations, a defamation lawsuit filed by the mayor against a councillor, and the mayor suspending the city’s acting CAO in a bid to “change things up.”

A man wearing a black jacket and blue checked shirt smiles
Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson refused to resign, despite an overwhelming 8-1 vote on council. The mayor has faced repeated criticism for various public spats with councillors and city staff. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Braun’s Wednesday report could be a turning point, as it recommends the council consider creating financial sanctions for code of conduct violations in a bid to repair its dysfunctional nature.

It prompted an 8-1 vote by councillors calling on the mayor to resign —  though the motion passed overwhelmingly, with Hamer-Jackson voting against, it is not legally binding.

Municipal councils in B.C. have very few powers to remove elected officials, even if they are not supported by other council members.

Braun told reporters he wasn’t optimistic that the mayor would receive his recommendations well.

“The mayor is a fighter. He’s told me that — he’s not a quitter, he’s a fighter,” the adviser said. “He’s demonstrated that to me throughout this whole process.”

“I said, ‘You’re the mayor … it’s up to you to build this team together.'”

A white man wearing a suit speaks to reports, with a City of Kamloops poster behind him.
Former Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun, who served as a municipal adviser for Kamloops city council, says he is concerned with the idea of the province being able to recall municipal councillors — but that it may be a potential recourse for a dysfunctional council. (Marcella Bernardo/CBC)

Braun said that if the council dysfunction continues in Kamloops for much longer, it could result in legal repercussions — given previous investigations regarding Hamer-Jackson alleged he breached confidentiality rules and created an unsafe workplace.

“It’s up to him — but that doesn’t mean he can run roughshod over council,” Braun said. “The mayor needs for people to join him … that isn’t happening. It’s not healthy for the city.”

Some of Braun’s recommendations — including a potential amendment to the Community Charter, which governs all municipalities outside Vancouver — would require the city applying to the B.C. Supreme Court to do so.

For his part, Hamer-Jackson told council he would be vindicated if the city’s matters go to court.

“When I got elected, my goals were to get a safer community and to have accountability,” he told CBC News on Tuesday, when asked if he would continue to work with council.

“I think that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

‘Poor communication and distrust’

Braun’s report says some of the top challenges he sees at Kamloops City Hall involve significant staff turnover, the mayor’s resistance to resolution and openness, and “poor communication and distrust” between the mayor and city staff.

The adviser makes three major recommendations to Hamer-Jackson, which include asking the mayor to be more open to criticism and respect confidentiality protocols.

His report also makes 13 recommendations to council — such as engaging in leadership and communication seminars and engaging a consultant or mentor to assist council.

Some of the most significant recommendations, however, include potentially asking the province to amend the Community Charter to include a legislative process to remove a member of the council.

It also asks the council to potentially include financial penalties for repeated offences of the city’s code of conduct.

Braun says, for instance, the first violation of the code of conduct could result in a 10 per cent reduction in salary, while the second could result in a 25 per cent reduction and so on.

A white man wearing a purple suit jacket answers a question in a city hall.
Kamloops Coun. Kelly Hall, right, says that council will look at Braun’s recommendations in the weeks to come. (Marcella Bernardo/CBC)

Coun. Kelly Hall welcomed Braun’s report, and said it was a “wholesome” look at the challenges being faced by council, and said they would look at its recommendations in the weeks to come.

“We’ve got a really dynamic council that wants to eagerly serve the community in a better way, in a better light,” he said. “With these recommendations, I think that shows us the direction that we need to go.”


Posted in CBC