Kamloops mayor recuses himself from entire council meeting in 'surprising' move

Kamloops, B.C. Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC - image credit)
Kamloops, B.C. Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC - image credit)

It was an awkward afternoon in Kamloops, B.C., council chambers on Tuesday.

Five seconds into a regular council meeting, Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson recused himself from the whole meeting.

He cited potential conflicts of interest and handed the meeting over to Coun. Bill Sarai to lead.

And then he never returned.

Typically, if a council member believes their presence during a specific agenda item may be a conflict of interest, they recuse themselves from that item, and explain why they're in conflict. Because they tend to return for the rest of the meeting, they stay close by.

City of Kamloops
City of Kamloops

Former Kamloops mayor and local columnist Mel Rothenburger said he's never seen anything like it during his many years in and around city hall.

"It was pretty surprising," he told Radio West host Sarah Penton.

Council members are refusing to comment on the situation, except to confirm that Hamer-Jackson did not follow proper protocols.

City of Kamloops chief administrative officer David Trawin said new council members were given plenty of training in their first month in office, including on conflicts of interest.

In addition, the province has resources for elected officials around what constitutes a conflict of interest and what to do when one arises.

Hamer-Jackson has since said two of several items on the agenda were a conflict for him: a variance on a property that involves a close friend, and a 26-page report on housing, safety and security that involved ASK Wellness, a local housing advocacy organization.

Last month, a lawyer for ASK Wellness sent a letter to Hamer-Jackson, asking him to stop making "defamatory" comments about the organization and its executive director in interviews with media.

Speaking with CBC's Marcella Bernardo, Hamer-Jackson said he wanted to be part of setting council agendas. If he had been involved, he said, he wouldn't have allowed the report to be part of it.

He also said he was forced to sit in his office all morning that day while an in-camera meeting took place. He didn't want to sit in his office any longer while council discussed the housing report, he said, so he left.

"I could have sat there for another two hours," he said.

"Matter of fact, [the earlier meeting] had a break and everybody went and had lunch, and when I went to go get my lunch, there was no wraps left. I thought, well, maybe I'll get something to eat, you know?"