Dilworth calls for Vagramov to step aside at contentious council meeting

Port Moody council will consider the future of Mayor Rob Vagramov at its next meeting.

At Tuesday's council meeting, Coun. Diana Dilworth filed a notice of motion for council’s Oct. 8 meeting that Vagramov continue his leave of absence if his sexual assault case has not yet been resolved — or resign if he hasn’t been fully exonerated of that charge.

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Vagramov is scheduled for another appearance at Port Coquitlam provincial court Thursday.

Dilworth’s move capped a meeting that began with a round of applause from several members of the packed gallery as Vagramov took his mayor’s seat for the first time since last March. That’s when he went on a voluntary paid leave of absence to deal with the charge that was announced March 28, following an investigation by a special prosecutor into an allegation by a woman about an incident that occurred in Coquitlam in 2015. (Two months later, Vagramov announced he would no longer accept his $111,833 salary while he remained on leave.)

The applause prompted one member of the gallery to remark, “I never thought I’d be in a room where an unresolved matter of sexual assault is cheered.”

That statement, too, was met with a round of applause. And that’s the way it went for more than an hour during the meeting’s public input portion as speakers expressing support for Vagramov’s return to the mayor’s office and those renouncing it were almost equally numbered.

One speaker praised Vagramov for his “guts to come back.” Others called his return a “charade” that made Port Moody “a laughingstock.”

In her remarks at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Dilworth noted the divisiveness in the community and, she said, it will not be healed until Vagramov’s legal issue is resolved.

“It is clear to me our community shares feelings of anger,” she said, adding Vagramov’s return to the mayor’s office might also contravene council’s own code of conduct bylaw.

Coun. Hunter Madsen, who was the city’s acting mayor immediately prior to Vagramov’s return, said, “The controversy is a distraction, a lightning rod for partisan division” but, he added, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

For his part, Vagramov listened stoically, although he did interject when two members of the gallery got into a heated exchange.

“There’s one target here tonight,” he said.

Later Vagramov added, “I take everything that was said very seriously.”

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