A number of Kamloops councillors say the alleged "chaotic behaviour" of the city's embattled mayor was on display Tuesday during a turbulent special meeting of council.
Councillors called the meeting to address sweeping unilateral changes Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson made to the city’s standing committees — changes that saw some councillors removed from chair positions and nine citizens, some of whom financially contributed to and worked on the mayor’s election campaign, appointed.
After news of the changes became public, councillors held a press conference at which they called out the mayor for "chaotic and unpredictable behaviour" at city hall.
Hamer-Jackson has defended his actions and pointed to his authority as mayor to name committee members, as well as the qualifications of those he appointed.
Coun. Stephen Karpuk told Castanet Kamloops he felt "blindsided" last Thursday when he saw the email announcing the unexpected committee changes.
He said he spoke with Hamer-Jackson a few hours before the the email was sent. During their conversation, he said the mayor made a related inquiry but didn’t mention the pending changes.
“That's the chaos that we have felt for months,” Karpuk said.
“It is taxing, to say the least, to not know what's happening for the next moment to the next moment, or when the next change is going to happen — and it shouldn't have to be that way.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, some councillors pressed Hamer-Jackson on why he decided to make changes to committees. Coun. Bill Sarai said the groups had only just begun to meet, and the mayor had criticized them publicly for moving too slowly.
“We can change it," the mayor said, contradicting what he told Castanet Kamloops last week. "Again, this isn't the end of the world. We can make adjustments."
Karpuk, who repeatedly asked the mayor Tuesday about his rationale for placing citizens on the voting committees as opposed to one of the city’s 21 engagement groups, said the mayor’s job includes good governance.
“You are supposed to work with us. And we haven’t had that opportunity,” Karpuk said.
"We've been judged on a report card basis, in your words, as not doing our job, in some cases, well enough. Case in point — you removed three chairs. That's not saying that you have good confidence in these people. And yet today you're telling us that you do have confidence in these people."
“No, I’m not saying everybody,” Hamer-Jackson shot back.
“This is the chaotic thing that we spoke about last week that we are having difficulties dealing with,” Karpuk replied.
Earlier in the meeting, Hamer-Jackson said he didn’t feel Coun. Kelly Hall was doing a good job as chair of the community and protective services committee, which has only met once — on Feb. 9 — since it was formed in December.
Hamer-Jackson and Hall then sparred over an incident moments before that meeting in which Hamer-Jackson tried to include Brandon Coyle, one of his recent citizen appointees and a donor to his campaign. Hall said he felt "blindsided" by the mayor.
According to Hall, council is “really frustrated with the chaotic behaviour.”
“At the end of the day, we want to do the right thing for the people of Kamloops — we want to provide good leadership, good governance,” he said.
“But if you've got an individual that is consistently changing — you heard it here today. He's applauding us for the work that we're doing on committees today. But two days ago, he replaced the chairs because we were inefficient and not doing a good job. So what is it? And it just seems to happen every day.”
Hall said council didn’t want to dwell on “mudslinging,” but noted “the amount of untruths that are spoken on a regular basis are mounting up.”
"All you have to do is just take a look at how he handled the letter with the adjustment," Hall said. "He said it was proposed. It wasn’t. It was fait accompli."
Hamer-Jackson was asked by Castanet Kamloops to respond to allegations that he was changing his tune throughout Tuesday's meeting and displaying chaotic behaviour.
In response, the mayor said he didn’t tell Karpuk about his plans to change committees because “bringing everything out to everybody can cause problems,” and repeated that the Community Charter allows him to make standing committee appointments.
“There's no democratic process to it," he said.
"It doesn't say in the charter that when you pick those committees that you have to have a referendum. You don't have to have an election."