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Conflict over one agenda item leads Kamloops mayor to recuse self from entire meeting

Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson said he left due to a report on social issues

~Kamloops This Week

Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson’s appearance on the Dec. 7 episode of Kamloops Last Week came a day after he was the focus of many media stories due to his decision to recuse himself from the entirety of the Dec. 6 regular council meeting. After declaring a possible conflict of interest with items on that day’s agenda — without specifying which agenda items those were — the first-term mayor turned the meeting over to Coun. Bill Sarai to chair.

Hamer-Jackson then left council chambers, and city hall, and watched the meeting online at home, after which he said he went to Paul Lake, where he was unavailable to be contacted due to cellphone service issues.

Hamer-Jackson spoke to Kamloops Last Week co-hosts Christopher Foulds and Marty Hastings about the events at the council meeting, explaining that his decision to recuse himself was due to a report on social agencies received by council and because of a variance permit request tied to a family friend.

Hamer-Jackson said he received advice that he might be in a conflict with respect to the social agencies report without mentioning a specific social agency tied to the report — the ASK Wellness Society.

Hamer-Jackson has been the subject of an exchange of legal letters between himself, in his capacity as mayor, and the ASK Wellness Society, with the lawyer for the society, Scott Huyghebaert, expressing concerns about some of Hamer-Jackson’s critical comments about the non-profit during the election campaign and to media as being defamatory toward ASK Wellness and its CEO, Bob Hughes. Huyghebaert has asked that Hamer-Jackson stop making such statements and stop using Hughes’ name.

In response, Hamer-Jackson, through his lawyer, David McMillan, has asked that Hughes/ Huyghebaert retract their accusations of defamatory language and apologize.

Hamer-Jackson said he did not return to the council meeting for other items not tied to potential conflict of interest because he believed the report on social issues would take a long time to discuss. He added that council is well equipped to run a meeting without him at the helm and argued that the report on social issues could have — and should have — been deferred to a later meeting due to the ongoing dispute between himself and ASK Wellness, from which he is awaiting a retraction and apology.

Hamer-Jackson said he believes that, as mayor, he should be able to help organize council agendas well before the day they are held.

In addition, Hamer-Jackson noted he was not permitted to attend an in-camera meeting held right before the 1:30 p.m. council meeting. He said he was waiting in his office at city hall while city councillors and city legal counsel met behind closed doors. The mayor said he does not know what the topic of that meeting was, noting he could not publicly disclose that, even if he did know.

With Hamer-Jackson not permitted to attend the hours-long in-camera meeting, it likely had to do with the ongoing legal spat between Hamer-Jackson and ASK Wellness, though anybody attending the meeting is prohibited legally from speaking about the gathering.

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