Statement issued by the City of Kamloops today (Nov. 9, 2022) regarding this weeks closed meetings regarding the mayor:
Kamloops City Council values transparency in governance to the greatest degree possible, and would like to provide some information regarding the unusual nature of recent council meetings.
December 6, 2022–Closed Council Meeting
Prior to the regular open council meeting on December 6, 2022, Council held a closed meeting to be informed of several legal issues. The City is expressly not waiving any privilege; however, City Council would like to confirm that the purpose of that meeting was to obtain advice about how best to mitigate certain legal exposure arising from the conduct of a Council member.
When a Council receives privileged legal advice, it is normal practice that members whose own interests are or may be adverse to those of the municipality are not entitled to remain at the meeting or hear that legal advice, as doing so would jeopardize the municipality’s legal position and put the public’s interests at risk. For this reason, Mayor Hamer-Jackson was not entitled to attend that meeting.
At this time, Council will not be discussing the potential lawsuits or legal issues, nor the conduct that led to them. Council does wish to clarify though that, unless directed or authorized by Council as a whole, no individual member may use their office and/or title to speak on matters that are exclusively within Council’s authority. This pertains to speaking on behalf of Council in respect to any municipal business, including direction Council may or may not give to any of its properly authorized committees. All committees and commissions authorized to engage in municipal matters are directed by and report to Council, not to any individual member.
December 6, 2022–Regular Open Council Meeting
At the December 6, 2022, regular open Council meeting, Mayor Hamer-Jackson announced he had a conflict of interest and left the meeting without specifying the nature of his conflict. Neither staff nor Council required the Mayor to declare a conflict, nor did they prohibit the Mayor from attending that meeting.
Council is grateful for the availability of senior level staff who have consistently and respectfully provided support and sound advice throughout the process thus far.
All elected officials are legally responsible for identifying and declaring their own conflicts of interest. As a matter of practice, city staff will often alert a member of Council of a perceived conflict of interest arising from an agenda item, however the decision to declare a conflict rests with the individual member of Council.
When a member of Council deems themselves in conflict with a particular item, general practice is to declare the nature of that conflict, leave the room for the duration of that discussion, and return to the meeting for the next item on the agenda.
The Community Charter sets out detailed rules regarding both pecuniary (financial) and non-pecuniary conflicts of interest. The rules recognize that the judgment of even the most well-meaning people can be impaired when their personal interests may be in conflict with their public duty. As such, the rules are in place to protect the integrity of Council’s decision-making function by promoting transparency and fairness.
Whether or not a member of Council formally declares a conflict of interest, all elected officials are prohibited from participating in matters in which they have a pecuniary or non-pecuniary interest. Prohibited participation is more than just “voting”; the Community Charter states that if an elected official has a pecuniary or non-pecuniary conflict of interest, they must not:
Remain at a council meeting while the matter is being discussed;
Attend any other council meeting or council committee meeting where that matter is discussed;
Participate in any discussion of the matter at any council meeting or council committee meeting;
Vote on a question in respect of the matter at any council meeting or council committee meeting; or
Attempt in any way to influence any council member’s vote on the matter, whether before, during, or after the council meeting.
Where the elected official has a pecuniary interest in a matter, the Community Charter also prohibits them from using their office to attempt to influence in any way a decision, recommendation, or other action to be made or taken:
At a council meeting or council committee meeting;
By an officer or employee of the municipality
By a delegate of council; or
By any other person or body (e.g. an external person or governmental body).
When elected officials engage in this prohibited conduct, they may be disqualified from office.
All items on the meeting agenda were available well in advance as per usual, and the report presented by Social, Housing, and Community Development was added at the request of the mayor two weeks prior.
December 8, 2022–Special Closed Council Meeting
Council held a special closed Council meeting on December 8, 2022, to continue the discussion on these same legal issues, as the December 6 closed Council meeting had to be adjourned to begin the regular open Council meeting. As such, Mayor Hamer-Jackson was again not entitled to attend the December 8 closed council meeting for the same reasons. At this meeting, Council unanimously authorized this release of information from the December 6 and December 8 closed council meetings.
Council wishes to be as transparent as possible, however certain privileged information must remain confidential so as not to jeopardize the City’s legal position, which could in turn cost the taxpayers of Kamloops.
Council agrees that the necessary use of time and resources to protect the best interest of the community through legal counsel is unfortunate, and sincerely hopes it will not be necessary going forward. They also enjoy a positive working relationship with the mayor and intend to continue supporting our common interest to build a stronger Kamloops together.
Council recognizes the outstanding efforts of City staff to provide information required to protect the interests of the organization and the community and looks forward to bringing this unfortunate distraction to an end and working collaboratively for the benefit of the entire Kamloops community.