Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson says he decided to leave the entirety of Tuesday’s council meeting due to a conflict of interest with a city manager’s report on efforts to address social issues.
Hamer-Jackson started off Tuesday afternoon’s council meeting by recusing himself, turning his chair duties over to Coun. Bill Sarai.
Hamer-Jackson then left council chambers and didn’t return. He told Castanet Kamloops he went home and watched the meeting online.
Among other matters, Tuesday’s agenda included a report from Carmin Mazzotta, the city’s social, housing and community development manager, which detailed actions taken by city staff over the past couple of years in response to 10 motions approved by the previous council.
These motions had been made to address issues around homelessness, mental health and addictions, housing and safety.
Hamer-Jackson told Castanet Kamloops he was advised he would be in a conflict of interest with this agenda item after a recent exchange of letters between his personal lawyer and legal counsel representing a local social agency.
While Hamer-Jackson didn’t name the agency, he referenced letters exchanged by his lawyer and a lawyer representing ASK Wellness — letters published by Radio NL a few weeks ago.
“One item on the agenda was quite a lengthy thing with Mr. Mazzotta’s report. And it — I mean, it was from back in March of 2021,” Hamer-Jackson said, referencing the initial series of motions made by council in spring of that year.
“I probably had enough questions to ask to last about two hours there about that report. And in asking anything in that report, I could be in conflict of interest at this point.”
Hamer-Jackson said he also knew a family who was involved with a development variance permit that came up later on the agenda.
When asked why he left the entire council meeting for a conflict of interest on one or two matters instead of stepping out of the room when those matters were discussed, Hamer-Jackson said Mazzotta’s report would have taken up quite some time anyhow.
“Well that would be lengthy,” Hamer-Jackson said.
“That report didn’t have to happen today, while I'm still waiting for a letter of retracting, you know, threats.”
In the lawyer letters, legal counsel for ASK Wellness raised concerns about Hamer-Jackson’s statements about the agency, suggesting his past comments have been defamatory. The letter, dated Nov. 3, says ASK Wellness doesn’t want to commence court action in regards to the comments — but they want those types of statements to end.
The letter also expresses a desire to work together to address social issues.
A reply from Hamer-Jackson’s personal lawyer, dated Nov. 7, asked for a retraction of the suggestion that defamatory comments had been made and asked for the agency to make an apology.
Bob Hughes, CEO of ASK Wellness, presented to council on Nov. 15, saying he welcomes the opportunity to work with council to address homelessness, addictions and issues on Kamloops streets.
Hamer-Jackson said he's still waiting for a personal apology.
“I'm still waiting for a letter from an agency or a person to either retract their threat against me or step up to the plate, and let’s get going, let’s work together,” Hamer-Jackson said.
Hamer-Jackson said he doesn't believe Mazzotta's report should have been on Tuesday's agenda to begin with.
“There’s items on the agenda that are very sensitive right now, that don't have to be on the agenda," he said.
Hamer-Jackson also said he was not allowed to attend a closed council meeting held earlier on Tuesday, saying he sat for two hours in his office as “they were having closed council meetings about me.”
Hamer-Jackson wasn’t able to say exactly what the closed meeting was about, except that he knew the city's lawyer was involved.
When asked if he left the council meeting as a form of protest, Hamer-Jackson said no.
“It was because I can’t contribute to something that I felt was a very important issue moving forward for our community. ... I didn't feel that that report had to be done at that time, while I'm waiting for a letter back of a retraction, or action, so it wasn't necessary for it to be on the agenda. It wasn't pressing,” Hamer-Jackson said.
“And again, if I was the mayor and I had a choice a week ago, I would have said, ‘Let's just postpone it for now.’”