Advertisement

Kamloops council votes to reinstate chief administrative officer

Kamloops city councillors voted to reinstate its chief administrative officer in a special meeting, who was suddenly suspended by the mayor on March 26.  (Jenifer Norwell/CBC - image credit)
Kamloops city councillors voted to reinstate its chief administrative officer in a special meeting, who was suddenly suspended by the mayor on March 26. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC - image credit)

A kerfuffle at Kamloops City Hall continues to unfold following Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson's sudden decision to suspend acting chief administrative officer (CAO) Byron McCorkell from City Hall on March 26.

Two days later, on March 28, city councillors held an emergency council meeting and voted to reinstate McCorkell, who has worked more than 25 years for the city.

"As far as [council is] concerned [McCorkell's] back at work [until] someone tells us differently that there's a reason he should be suspended," Coun. Bill Sarai told CBC News.

"It's a very serious matter. You're dealing with someone's livelihood here. They have family. They got a reputation."

Sarai says other councillors, who were out of town for the Easter break, took the time to join or fly back to Kamloops for the March 28 meeting, but that Hamer-Jackson did not attend or share his reasoning for the suspension.

Sarai says he hopes more information about the suspension will be shared during the next city council meeting on April 9, but that the mayor's actions were "troubling" and affect the reputation of council and the city overall.

"To this day, we don't know what was serious enough to suspend our CAO," Sarai said.

"That's not the way Kamloops does things. That's not the way we want, I want to govern."

McCorkell was appointed acting CAO on March 7, after former CAO David Trawin announced he was going on personal leave.

Controversy isn't new to Kamloops City Hall, with the province going as far as hiring a municipal adviser in December 2023 to repair the relationship between mayor and council.

The current adviser, former Abbotsford mayor Henry Braun — who replaced the former adviser in February — says he's unable to comment on the suspension while he completes his report, which will be shared with the province by June.

Community safety concerns

Hamer-Jackson said the suspension stemmed from his concern for community safety and the level of crime in Kamloops.

"I'm constantly getting businesses talking about broken windows and break-ins … I don't see any change," he said, adding McCorkell, as CAO and the former director for community protective services, did little to address the issues.

"He's basically in charge and it's not the same out in Barnhartvale … You will not get 800 emergency calls a year in all of Barnhartvale."

McCorkell told CBC News he won't be commenting at this time but that "there is a 'lot' [he] would want to clarify."

On Tuesday, March 26, Hamer-Jackson told CBC News he called McCorkell into his office, along with Coun. Margot Middleton as a witness, to suspend him.

According to Hamer-Jackson, McCorkell said that wasn't permitted, and that the mayor would have to hold a special city council meeting to carry out the suspension.

Hamer-Jackon told CBC News "it's very obvious" in the B.C. community charter that mayors have the power to suspend city staff. He said the next scheduled council meeting would have been on April 9.

"There shouldn't be any meeting until April the 9th … It does not say anywhere that you're supposed to call a special meeting," Hamer-Jackson said, adding he had hoped for time to gather information regarding the suspension for councillors.

Hamer-Jackon said Coun. Mike O'Reilly also requested the mayor to call the special meeting regarding the suspension, but Hamer-Jackon refused, adding he had other meetings and was travelling to Las Vegas on March 28, and would not be available until April 1.

Hamer-Jackson alleged council members held private meetings without him prior to March 28 and that the vote to reinstate McCorkell was "predetermined" and not "objective."

Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson (pictured in the grey suit in the centre) sits next to several city councillors during their swearing-in ceremony in November 2022.
Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson (pictured in the grey suit in the centre) sits next to several city councillors during their swearing-in ceremony in November 2022.

Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson, pictured in the grey suit in the centre, sits next to several city councillors during their swearing-in ceremony in November 2022. (Marcella Bernardo/CBC)

Hamer-Jackson said he stands by his decision, but "won't be discussing" the suspension at the upcoming April 9 meeting unless other council members bring it up.

"I don't think I've done anything wrong except for try to move our city in a different direction," said Hamer-Jackson. He did not say whether he'll suspend McCorkell again.

"I hope that one day the councillors will actually want to hear what I have to say."