Veteran Coun. Meghan Lahti will be Port Moody’s acting mayor for the next three months after a slip of paper with her name on it was pulled from a glass by the city’s manager, Tim Savoie, during a meeting of council’s committee of the whole Tuesday at city hall.
The special meeting was convened to draw up a schedule for acting mayors while Mayor Rob Vagramov is on a paid leave of absence to deal with a charge of sexual assault that was brought against him last Wednesday after a months-long investigation by a special prosecutor into an incident that is alleged to have occurred in 2015.
Coun. Hunter Madsen will assume the acting mayor’s duties from July through September and rookie Coun. Steve Milani will then take over through to the end of December.
But for council’s two other veterans, the glass came up empty.
While Coun. Zoe Royer will serve as second acting mayor during Madsen’s tenure, Coun. Diana Dilworth declined the opportunity to take on a secondary role.
Council decided on a random draw to determine the acting mayor’s posts after Madsen challenged Dilworth for the summer slot in the three-month rotation that she said was her only availability.
After the meeting, Dilworth said Madsen’s refusal to back down even after he indicated he could juggle his own schedule to accommodate the fall rotation was “disappointing.”
She said cutting her out was an attempt to marginalize her involvement with council, adding, “Everybody knew I had one chance to be acting mayor.”
Dilworth had also been left out of the rotation in a proposed schedule for acting mayors that had been presented in a motion by Vagramov at a meeting with council last Thursday when he told them of his intention to step away from his job. That motion would have placed councillors Madsen, Amy Lubik and Milani as acting mayors for four-month stints through to the end of March, 2020. But that motion was deferred and never moved at Tuesday’s meeting.
Lahti, who assumes her mayoral duties beginning Wednesday, said the random draw was the most equitable and non-partisan way to move forward.
“We agreed to a process,” she told The Tri-City News. “You’re not going to make everybody happy.”
Tuesday’s meeting started with bold words about optimism, conciliation and collaboration and Lahti said those feelings don’t have to be lost to some of the rancour of Tuesday’s debate.
“Consensus is difficult to get to, especially when high emotions are involved,” she said. “I really have high hopes for this council.”
Council also had to name new chairs and vice-chairs on several committees to account for Vagramov’s leave of absence.
Lahti will become Port Moody’s representative on the TransLink Mayor’s Council after that body indicated it wanted only one person named to the position because of the complex issues it addresses.
Other new appointments for committees are:
• Community planning advisory committee: Lahti will be the chair, and Milani will be the vice-chair;
• Emergency measures committee: Milani will be the chair, Royer will be the vice-chair;
• Fire department advisory committee: Dilworth will be the chair, Royer will be the vice-chair;
• Transportation committee: Madsen will be the chair, Milani will be the vice chair;
• Youth focus representative will be Milani.
How much acting mayors are paid, and what they do
Council also referred the question of additional remuneration for the acting mayor’s job to staff for further research. Currently, each councillor receives a $500 stipend per year to compensate for additional duties they may take on when serving as acting mayor.
City councils normally designate a rotating schedule of councillors to take on the duties of acting mayor when the sitting mayor is unexpectedly absent or on vacation, usually for short periods of time and usually for ceremonial functions like attending community events or speaking engagements. But the indefinite leave of absence taken by Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov to deal with his legal issues likely means the three councillors named Tuesday to fill in as acting mayors in three-month blocks through to the end of 2019 will have more responsibilities.
• Act as the city’s media spokesperson
• Attend events put on by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce
• Attend Police Board meetings and events as a guest
• Attend weekly meetings to review council’s agenda
• Execute agreements, contracts and permits
• Sign bylaws, minutes and other documents
• Draft or approve letters from council
• Host open-door meetings with residents, business owners, organizations, suppliers, etc.
• Meet bi-weekly with the city manager to discuss ongoing issues
• Meet with mayors and councillors from other municipalities
• Attend Tri-Cities mayors’ meetings and events
• Meet with federal and provincial officials
• Follow up and provide direction for correspondence with external agencies like TransLink, Metro Vancouver, SD43
• Attend events as requested by schools, service clubs, societies, as well as speak at city events like Canada Day or when requested by community groups