Councillor says move to look at committee structure is 'good leadership'

Mayor critical of committee

A Kamloops city councillor says good governance and transparency was upheld at a special meeting on Tuesday, in which three approved motions paved the way for council to take a deeper look at its standing committees — moves criticized by the mayor.

Council voted 8-1 in favour of pausing its standing committee activity, pending a review of committee terms of reference by three yet-to-be determined council members. Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson, who attended over Zoom, was the only elected official opposed to the motions.

The move was made days after it was discovered Hamer-Jackson had made several unilateral changes to standing committees, naming new chairs and adding a number of citizen appointees — some of whom are his election campaign supporters.

Hamer-Jackson has defended the decision, pointing to the accomplishments of his appointees and his authority under the Community Charter to choose committee members.

Coun. Kelly Hall, who chaired Tuesday’s meeting as Hamer-Jackson attended online, said reviewing committee terms of reference is “good governance for all of us, and all of the City of Kamloops.”

“What you saw today was good leadership, good governance. We recognize that there was some challenges, so we addressed those challenges,” Hall said.

Hall said there are some specifics to be studied around having members of the public sit on committees, including matters related to confidentiality and a code of conduct — which, as it stands, would only apply to council members.

During the meeting, CAO David Trawin noted current terms of reference were developed when the previous mayor appointed only councillors to committees, and if citizens are to be added, the terms of reference will need to adjust to reflect the change.

Coun. Margot Middleton said she agreed with having public input, but she believed this could be done through the city’s engagement groups, which, since 2019, have involved about 120 members of the public, up from about 60 in 2017.

“I see real problems with confidentiality and conduct,” Middleton said, referencing placing citizens on standing committees.

“Why can we not let the standing committees stay as they are under the terms of reference that are now currently created, and create engagement groups that can bring in some new ideas, new members that can feed back,” Middleton said.

She pointed out there isn’t currently an engagement group for the city’s standing finance committee, suggesting this could be further opportunity for public input.

Coun. Nancy Bepple said the new select committee will be able to study these matters and bring back recommendations.

Coun. Mike O’Reilly said empowering a committee to study the terms of reference and give further guidance was a “fair, equitable process,” and he hoped the mayor would vote in support.

“I think that gives everybody assurance — including the mayor — that this process is very unbiased,” O’Reilly said.

“What we have in front of us dealing with the terms of reference, it's to provide the best and most efficient and stable form of governance that we can for our citizens."

Hamer-Jackson said throughout the meeting he had the authority to appoint citizens to committees, and said he is still not finished with his selections. He said he would take suggestions if councillors have other people they wish to appoint.

In response, Coun. Katie Neustaeter emphasized the importance of developing an ethical process for selecting citizen appointees and offered to help him develop such a process.

Other councillors, including Coun. Bill Sarai, challenged the mayor's statement about inviting appointee suggestions.

“What you sent out last week, there was no avenue there for any input from councillor or staff to change anything,” Sarai said, referencing the document showing committee changes.

“You're saying it now that there's opportunities for engagement — after we called you out on it.”

Maria Mazzotta, the city’s corporate officer, said the mayor has authority to appoint members under the Community Charter, but council can make other provisions under the terms of reference, which include selecting the chair and other rules of procedure.

She said the new committee may recommend placing some committee procedural rules under council’s procedural bylaws, making them more established and long lasting.

Hall said he would be sitting down one-on-one with council members to decide who will be part of the select committee. There's no indication yet how long it will take the new committee to complete its review.

Speaking with Castanet Kamloops on Tuesday night, Hamer-Jackson criticized the move, saying it would slow down the work of the city.

Although standing committees have paused for now, engagement groups will continue to meet, with council prepared to have additional committee of the whole meetings to continue city business.

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