Hamer-Jackson has Vegas trip planned, will miss special Kamloops city council meeting Thursday

Mayor won't be at meeting

UPDATE: 5:11 p.m.

Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson will not be in attendance for Thursday’s special meeting where council is expected to reject his suspension of acting chief administrative officer Byron McCorkell.

Hamer-Jackson told Castanet Kamloops he will not be in attendance for the meeting because he has plans for the upcoming Easter long weekend.

He said he and his wife plan to fly to Las Vegas on Friday to watch their son, who plays lacrosse for the NLL's Vancouver Warriors, who will be in Sin City taking on the Desert Dogs on Saturday night. The mayor said he plans to fly home on Sunday.

The special meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 3 p.m., which is to be held in-camera.

While council members can attend public meetings via videoconference closed meetings must be attended in person.

Hamer-Jackson said he informed McCorkell of the suspension in a meeting alongside Coun. Margot Middleton on Tuesday, advising that he would be preparing a report on his reasons for the suspension ahead of the next regular meeting on April 9. The mayor claimed McCorkell informed him he needed to call a special meeting, and he informed McCorkell he was not available to attend such a meeting this week due to previously made plans.

Hamer-Jackson told Castanet his next earliest availability would be this coming Monday.

Hamer-Jackson issued the suspension at about 2:20 p.m. on Tuesday stating he felt his decision to suspend McCorkell was “necessary to change the direction of the City of Kamloops.”

The statement goes on to read that he’s enacting the suspension under a section of the Community Charter that states the mayor can “suspend a municipal officer or employee if the mayor considers it necessary.”

On Wednesday, however, the rest of council issued a statement saying they have “the utmost confidence” in McCorkell and will meet to consider Hamer-Jackson’s actions on Thursday, which is the earliest date that can be arranged under legislation.

Hamer-Jackson told Castanet Kamloops he does not believe Kamloops’ nine member council has quorum to call the meeting given his absence and four perceived conflicts of interest.

He said he believes that four councillors who have family members that are employees of the city should declare conflicts of interest on the matter and not participate in Thursday's meeting.

“Without me there is no meeting unless they decided in this case that — their immediate family members, that are staff members that work for the CAO — they don't feel they're in conflict," Hamer-Jackson said.

Maria Mazzotta, the city's corporate officer, said she didn't hold any such concerns.

"Conflicts of interest can only ever be determined by the courts and a decision on whether to participate or not always rests with the individual member of council," Mazzotta said.

"That said, I have advised the mayor repeatedly that I do not have any concerns around conflict of interest for those members of council who, in the past, may have declared conflict on matters relating to their family members."

Hamer-Jackson told Castanet he has until the next regular meeting on April 9 to get information to council for their consideration regarding his suspending McCorkell — as per the Community Charter.

Mazzotta told Castanet Kamloops that council quorum is a simple majority of five members of council, and the municipality is in line with statute in proceeding with Thursday’s meeting. She confirmed the section of the Community Charter pertains to council’s next meeting and does not specify it needing to be the next regular meeting.

UPDATE: 1:52 p.m.

The City of Kamloops and councillors have released a joint statement saying they have full confidence in deputy CAO Byron McCorkell, and they do not support Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson’s sudden and unilateral decision to suspend him.

On Wednesday morning, Hamer-Jackson told Castanet Kamloops he decided to suspend McCorkell, who has worked for the City of Kamloops for decades.

McCorkell stepped in to lead the city in early March, when it was announced CAO David Trawin would be away on personal leave for an undetermined amount of time.

In the joint statement, the city and councillors said Hamer-Jackson made his decision “unilaterally and without prior consultation with the rest of city council.”

“He provided no grounds or justification for his surprise suspension of the acting CAO and has provided no such explanation to date,” the statement said.

“Council has the authority to overturn the mayor’s decision to suspend and return acting CAO McCorkell to active duty with immediate effect.”

The statement said council will meet on Thursday — the earliest date that can be arranged under legislation — to consider Hamer-Jackson’s actions and review his decision to suspend McCorkell.

“With the exception of the mayor, all city councillors continue to have the utmost confidence in acting CAO McCorkell,” the statement said.

“He has worked loyally and diligently for the city for more than 25 years, serving the public energetically and enthusiastically and always putting the city’s best interests ahead of his own.”

Coun. Mike O’Reilly, this month’s deputy mayor, told Castanet Kamloops he received a text message on Tuesday at about 2:15 p.m. that Hamer-Jackson made this decision to suspend McCorkell.

“There was no prior conversation with councillors or staff that this was happening,” O’Reilly said, noting there were also no reasons or justification given as to the suspension.

“I think if you look back over the last 513 days, this is somewhat par for the course in the sense of the chaos the mayor continues to create."

He said actions like this makes it more difficult for council and staff to enact council’s strategic plan — which was approved in a unanimous, 9-0 vote last year.

O’Reilly said the mayor's actions to suspend McCorkell is "unprecedented and irresponsible.”

He noted while the Community Charter does allow for the mayor to suspend a municipal officer or employee, the measure is in place for emergency situations — “not for one day when the mayor has a beef or an issue with somebody.”

“It makes it very difficult for us to do our jobs,” O’Reilly said.

When asked if the mayor was planning to attend Thursday’s special meeting, O’Reilly said he didn’t know, but hopes the mayor “isn’t taking a holiday” instead of coming to the meeting which now has to be held because of his actions.

O'Reilly said he hopes the mayor is able to give council more information about why he chose to suspend McCorkell.

Hamer-Jackson told Castanet Kamloops he won't be attending Thursday's meeting. He also said he suspended the deputy CAO as he wasn’t seeing enough change.

“I think that we had change at the council level, and I think that we just got to make some changes here at the deputy CAO level,” he said.

Hamer-Jackson said he would accept the will of council.

O’Reilly said the mayor has also appeared to have disclosed personal information about acting CAO McCorkell, in breach of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

He noted this breach has been forwarded to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia.

ORIGINAL: 11:47 a.m.

Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson has suspended Byron McCorkell, the city’s deputy CAO.

Hamer-Jackson told Castanet Kamloops he suspended McCorkell because he wasn’t seeing change, pointing to various street issues in Kamloops.

He thanked McCorkell for his time served as protective services director. The mayor said he hopes he will have the will of council to fulfill the suspension.

“I think it’s time we change. That’s what I got elected on, change. And others did too — other people on council got elected for change, too,” Hamer-Jackson said.

“I think that we had change at the council level, and I think that we just got to make some changes here at the deputy CAO level.”

Multiple city councillors told Castanet Kamloops they couldn’t comment on the matter at this time, but a statement from the city would be forthcoming.

Maria Mazzotta, City of Kamloops corporate officer, said the Community Charter grants a mayor the power to suspend municipal officers, but the suspension must be reported to council at its next meeting — and council as a whole has the final say.

“The mayor does have the power to suspend, however this essentially needs to be ratified by council,” Mazzotta said.

“So a suspension can take place, but it can't actually go on for any length of time unless council supports it."

Under the Community Charter, council has a couple of options — it can decide to reinstate the employee, it can confirm the suspension or it can opt to dismiss the employee.

McCorkell, who has served as the city’s director of protective services, was named deputy CAO last fall.

He stepped in to lead the organization in early March when the City of Kamloops announced its CAO David Trawin would be away on personal leave of an undetermined amount of time.

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