Kamloops mayor questions city hall access restrictions; senior officials say staff safety paramount

Mayor questions restrictions

Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson is questioning recent changes to council's key fob access at city hall, saying he is unable to get into the building after hours — while senior officials maintain the measures were enacted “in defence of our staff.”

Council was made aware of the changes two weeks ago. The mayor and councillors are now restricted from directly accessing staff areas at municipal facilities, with the city citing an unspecified need to keep its employees safe from bullying and harassment.

Hamer-Jackson brought the matter up during Tuesday’s council meeting, saying as a result of the changes, he can’t access the building after hours.

“I work all the time, and I can't get in here on the weekends, and I can't get here early mornings or late. We've taken these measures to protect staff, but there is no staff in the building,” Hamer-Jackson said.

“Is there a way for me to get into the building after hours and on weekends?”

Mayor locked out after hours

Byron McCorkell, the city’s acting CAO, said the “extraordinary” steps were taken based on conversations with WorkSafe BC, noting there is a definition between staff and council.

“Council is considered to be on the public side of the equation. Therefore, we have an issue where we had to lock down the building in order to protect staff — which we've done, which unfortunately put council on the public side, which means you can come through the building during daytime hours,” McCorkell said.

“Because of our alarm system and everything else, that’s the way we are right now, and that's the way we're going to go forward until such time as our security review is completed and we'll move forward from there.”

The city has said the changes in key fob access is temporary until administration receives the results of a separate security audit, which has been in the works for a while.

McCorkell noted it’s not uncommon for an operation the size of the City of Kamloops to have access separations.

“Unfortunately, you couldn't access the building on a Sunday. You were alerted to that before. And unfortunately that's the situation we're in at the moment,” McCorkell said.

“We'll work through it. But it was done because of [a] current situation and in defence of our staff and to make sure people are feeling secure in their work.”

Jen Fretz, the city’s civic operations director, noted the city has staff working each day of the week, at all hours of the day and night.

“The measures that we've taken have been successful so far, so we don't have any intention of changing them in the near future,” she said.

Access changed for staff safety

Hamer-Jackson wondered why the access changes were necessary in the first place, asking whether the city had an “uptick in elected officials bullying and harassing union employees or staff employees.”

“I would say we don’t,” replied McCorkell. “We have what we've been dealing with.”

McCorkell noted he wouldn’t be able to speak to specific bullying or harassment complaints during the council meeting anyhow.

“The city has had situations where staff had felt insecure in their work. And therefore, we've implemented what we were directed to do as far as ensuring our people are safe,” he said.

City staff haven’t confirmed if the move to change key fob access for the elected officials was related to ongoing chaos at city hall.

In the past several weeks, Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson suddenly decided to suspend McCorkell — a decision quickly reversed by the rest of council — and then released two confidential city documents to news reporters.

One of those documents was an investigative report from last year that concluded the mayor violated council’s code of conduct multiple times by disrespecting or demeaning three staff members — including McCorkell and CAO David Trawin, who is currently away on personal leave.

As a result, a communication restriction between the mayor and some city staff members is in place.

Hamer-Jackson told staff and the rest of council he still didn’t understand why the building access restrictions are in place.

“That’s why I'm asking the question, is if I knew why, if I knew that there was bullying and harassment cases against staff, for myself, I would be well aware,” Hamer-Jackson said.

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