Third-party investigator finds Kamloops mayor breached code of conduct with 'misleading' statements

Mayor found to have misled

A third-party investigator has concluded Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson breached council’s code of conduct by making misleading public statements, according to a document from the City of Kamloops.

The code of conduct, adopted in May 2023, sets out expectations for council and committee members. The code requires they treat each other, city staff and city volunteers with respect and adhere to certain standards of behaviour.

According to a summary report from the city current to May 27, of the 19 code of conduct complaints made since Kamloops city council adopted the measures last year, seven investigations have been completed.

Only two code of conduct breaches have been found so far, one of which involves Hamer-Jackson.

According to the document, in that instance, Coun. Katie Neustaeter alleged Hamer-Jackson breached the code of conduct bylaw by misleading the public.

The report summary said “the investigator found that the mayor’s evidence was inconsistent and not credible.”

“The investigator found that the mayor was in breach of his obligations under s.3.11(a) by making public statements he knew or ought to have known were false or misleading,” the document reads.

“The investigator found that: ‘there is no evidence to corroborate his statements … are true and not misleading.’”

Section 3.11(a) of the code of conduct bylaw says a member must ensure communications related to city or council business are accurate, and they must not issue any statement that they know, or ought to have known, is false or misleading.

It is not known which public statement was at the centre of this specific investigation.

In a second related complaint, Neustaeter alleged Hamer-Jackson and his personal lawyer discriminated against her on the basis of gender, age and physical appearance, and the mayor ‘endorsed and perpetuated the misogynistic view with his own statements and support of the position.’”

There is no detail given in the summary report about the circumstance which led to the complaint.

However, according to a lawsuit filed against Neustaeter by Hamer-Jackson last year, the mayor alleges a joint council statement delivered by Neustaeter — which included a claim that councillors had been subject to violations of personal and professional boundaries — allowed for public speculation.

Last year, Hamer-Jackson’s lawyer told Kamloops This Week people could infer sexual misconduct when a “young, attractive-looking” councillor claims personal boundaries were violated — a suggestion Neustaeter told Castanet was “preposterous and minimizes the work of female politicians and women in the workplace in general.”

According to the city’s summary document, the investigator dismissed this secondary complaint, saying the mayor couldn’t be held responsible for the conduct of his lawyer that was not based on his instructions, and that his lawyer’s comments didn’t constitute a breach of the code of conduct by the mayor.

The summary document does not mention any sanctions or corrective actions recommended by the investigator due to the code of conduct breach, but it notes the investigator has issued a report detailing the related complaints. This report has not yet been made available to the public.

“Although the mayor got off on a technicality for part of the code of conduct complaint, I’m glad the investigator found that he should be held accountable for misleading the public and making false statements about me,” Neustaeter told Castanet Kamloops.

“I hope he allows the report to be released publicly soon.”

Meanwhile, Hamer-Jackson said Neustaeter was trying to “smear” him, and said the report would be challenged. He took issue with the city hiring “expensive lawyers out of North Vancouver, Victoria” to investigate code of conduct complaints.

“Usually when you’re hiring a lawyer, you’re hiring it for the result you want,” Hamer-Jackson said. “These are allegations and innuendos, a waste of taxpayers' money. We should be getting consultants and things like that to handle these, not high-priced lawyers from all over.”

According to the city, the investigators who look into code of conduct complaints are objective third-party lawyers retained by the CAO or the corporate officer.

The other code of conduct breach involved Coun. Bill Sarai, but according to the summary report, the investigator determined this breach was “of a trivial nature and done because of an error in judgement made in good faith,” strongly recommending no corrective measures be imposed. A report on the matter was released in January.

Five complaints ongoing, seven withdrawn

Out of the 19 code of conduct complaints, investigators have yet to reach a conclusion for five of them, while seven were withdrawn. Four of these seven were withdrawn due to fears the unnamed respondent might retaliate against city staff.

According to the summary report, the code of conduct complaints have cost $143,880 in investigative fees.

Members of council have put forward 12 of the complaints, which have tallied up to $34,787 — about 24 per cent of the total.

Members of the public put forward a total of five complaints before late August, when the bylaw was amended to allow only council, committee or working group members and staff to use this process amid concerns vexatious complaints would result in high costs to taxpayers. These five complaints have cost $107,508 — about 75 per cent of the total investigation cost.

According to the report, one of these complaints was put forward in August by “initially a member of the public, now a member of council,” and alleges the respondents improperly disclosed confidential information and records from a closed council meeting. This complaint has tallied more than $41,000 in investigation fees and the investigation is not yet complete.

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