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Kamloops mayor launches lawsuit against councillor

Reid Hamer-Jackson said previous statement by council damaged his reputation
Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson. (KTW photo)

Story via Kamloops This Week.

Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson has filed a lawsuit alleging defamation against Coun. Katie Neustaeter.

The notice of claim, which was filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops on June 12 by Hamer-Jackson’s lawyer David McMillan, stated Neustaeter defamed Hamer-Jackson when she read out a statement on behalf of all eight councillors on March 17 during a press conference in council chambers.

That statement, said the mayor, had disrespected, belittled and crossed personal and professional boundaries with councillors.

The lawsuit claims the statement was false and defamatory and has damaged, and was intent on damaging, Hamer-Jackson’s public image.

“The defendant [Neustaeter] has no factual basis for having made the March 17 statement. Nonetheless, the defendant has refused to retract the March 17 statement, and has wilfully permitted the damaging effects … to continue to harm the plaintiff [Hamer-Jackson] and his family,” the notice of claim stated.

The lawsuit stated Neustaeter drafted the text of the statement the night before and “wilfully and maliciously allowed and encouraged the public to speculate, and to draw inferences and conclusions with respect to the specific nature of the misconduct she alleged the plaintiff to have inflicted on her and/or others.”

During the press conference council refused to take questions from the media. Coun. Dale Bass told KTW at the time the council was not taking questions from the media due to legal advice; however, that was not the reason given by Neustaeter, who cited needing to get back to work. City of Kamloops corporate officer Maria Mazzotta told KTW there was no prohibition on council taking questions nor was instruction given to Neustaeter not to take questions.

The mayor’s lawsuit claims the statement was false and defamatory and that since March 17 “various members of the public have inferred or concluded Hamer-Jackson has physically or sexually assaulted, abused or assaulted Neustaeter and/or others.”

“The allegations the plaintiff was guilty of unspecified misconduct of a personal and scandalous nature, involving the violation of the defendant’s “personal boundaries” was made wilfully and maliciously. It was intended to damage the plaintiff’s personal reputation in the eyes of the public, and has done so,” the lawsuit stated.

Hamer-Jackson’s suit goes on to state that on March 23 he requested Neustaeter provide her justification for the March 17 statement and notified her in writing of the damaging effects it was having on him and his family and friends.

On March 31, Hamer-Jackson formally demanded Neustaeter provide factual basis for the claims, but rather than responding, she scheduled a closed council meeting “for the sole purpose of invoking a veil of privilege over, and further discussion concerning, the March 17 statement.”

Council held a closed council meeting on April 6, at which time, before heading from an open portion into the closed meeting, Hamer-Jackson said the closed meeting was to deal with a personal issue between himself and Neustaeter.

The notice of claim stated that back on Feb. 11, Neustater made defamatory comments, as well. Following attempts by Neustaeter’s father and former MLA, Kevin Krueger, to offer Hamer-Jackson guidance in his new role, as well as a phone call in which he detailed a personal issue he was having with his daughter, Neustaeter orally accused Hamer-Jackson of pursuing interactions with Krueger for political gain, the notice of claim stated.

Hamer-Jackson contends he never initiated contact with Krueger. Hamer-Jackson alleges this was an attempt by Neustaeter to convey to the other members of council and staff present the false impression Hamer-Jackson had conducted himself inappropriately with Krueger.

Two days later, Neustaeter emailed Hamer-Jackson and all other members of council telling the mayor to “never harass, meet with, attempt to meet with, or otherwise involve a member of my family in your dealings again.” Neustaeter’s email went on to accuse Hamer-Jackson of using her family to attempt to influence her or city business, according to the claim.

Hamer-Jackson alleges the statements in that email were false and an attempt to convey the impression the mayor had violated professional boundaries and diminish his reputation in the eyes of the rest of council that received the email.

The notice of claim stated that on March 5, in response to Hamer-Jackson asking Neustaeter to provide emails, texts and meetings she relied upon for her accusations, Neustaeter instead repeated false claims in an email to Hamer-Jackson and the rest of council.

Reached for comment on June 15, Neustaeter told KTW she had just learned of the lawsuit that morning after a reporter called her for comment. She told KTW she had nothing further to add, and did not reply to a text message asking if she intended to file a response.

Hamer-Jackson referred KTW to his lawyer, David McMillan, when reached for comment on June 15. McMillan was not immediately available, but has told media oputlets Neustaeter has not yet been served with the documents.

By Michael Potestio

About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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