Kamloops city councillor Katie Neustaeter is responding to the civil claims brought against her by the Kamloops mayor, saying she first found out about the filing after a reporter called her for comment.
“I was very surprised,” she explained. “I felt that it was very important to learn the process. I have never been involved in something like this before, and I felt that it was important to lean into the sources available and experts that better knew how.
Last week Mayor Reid Hammer-Jackson filed a defamation and libel lawsuit in the B.C. Supreme Court against Neustaeter, alleging she defamed him on March 17 when she read aloud statements prepared by city councillors following several committee changes.
The Kamloops mayor says harm was brought against him following the statements made in March. Neustaeter responded in a statement on behalf of the council that the mayor had violated personal and professional boundaries.
Hammer-Jackson’s lawyer, David A. McMillian, says that Neustaeter is being singled out because she read that statement, and an apology and a retraction are a way the lawsuit could be resolved.
Mayor Hammer-Jackson himself is under investigation after allegations of bullying and harassment were brought forward by city employees.
According to Neustaeter, the lawsuit is an unfortunate distraction from the council’s regular duties, but she said she continues to manage the chaos and focus on the work. Although this is her first time jumping into the political sphere, she has received much support.
“I am proud to work beside those councillors who work hard every single day, and I realize that this is a loud story, but it is not an accurate reflection of the functionality of the vast majority of that table.”
Neustaeter believes there is a stigma of being a woman in politics and that sometimes they can face judgments based on their appearance.
“We need to see more women being empowered to step into leadership roles, and that’s in politics, the workplace, and in general,” she said. “It’s incredibly important that the conversation that happens around gender and age and any factors that set people apart or place them in the minority are carefully considered, and that they are never a deterrent in someone’s credibility because of those factors.”
Nuestaeter issued her first public response on June 16, saying she looks forward to defending herself and plans to ‘let it play out as it will.’
“I would encourage people who are watching this unfold to also pay attention to the work that is happening in Kamloops, the things that really matter… Kamloops Council released our strategic plan this week. I hope that people take a deep dive into that despite the chaos that happens in the background.”
On June 20, the City of Kamloops issued a brief statement declaring Nuestater eligible for indemnification, meaning the city and taxpayers will cover the councillors’ legal fees under the Community Charter. Both Hammer Jackson and Nuesater eventually recused themselves from the in-camera meeting.