A day after Port Moody Mayor Robert Vagramov returned to work from leave due to a sexual assault charge, city council has once again been thrown into controversy after Coun. Meghan Lahti said she would not continue the role of chair of the police board — a direct rebuttal to the mayor's decision to return.
“This is not about politics. This is about standing up in solidarity with women across this country and it is about the fact that because of these sexual assault charges, the man is unable to fulfill the full scope of his duties as he pledged to do when he was elected,” Lahti, who's on vacation in Portugal, wrote in an email to The Tri-City News.
"I have informed him that I will not continue as chair of the Police Board as this would be completely inappropriate and not compliant with the Police Act. I believe that until and unless he is exonerated of these criminal charges, and he is able to assume all the duties and responsibilities he took an oath to perform, he should not be sitting in the mayor's chair."
Yesterday (Sept. 9), Vagramov told reporters at an afternoon press conference at city hall that he was ready to come back because he said it appears he needs less time to deal with the case as it proceeds summarily through the courts and it would “no longer require a trial.”
“I personally don’t want to be waiting any longer than I absolutely have to to get back to the priorities” at city hall, Vagramov said, reading from a statement.
He added regarding his legal woes: “The heavy lifting has been done. I am no longer required to give as much time to the case itself.”
Asked about the criminal file, which returns to Port Coquitlam provincial court Sept. 12, and for more details pertaining to the charge for a crime that’s alleged to have happened between April 1 and July 10, 2015 in Coquitlam, Vagramov declined to elaborate. In a previous statement, he said he would sue the accuser for defamation.
But today, Lahti said that Vagramov should not be sitting in the mayor’s chair unless he is exonerated of the criminal charge, adding in a text message to The Tri-City News that she had no advance warning of his return.
“He just showed up, despite the fact that staff had counselled him that it would be most appropriate to give the body of council at least two weeks notice,” she wrote in a text message.
Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel with the BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) said Monday, "The charge Mr. Vagramov is facing is still before the court. Accordingly, neither the special prosecutor nor the BCPS will be commenting."
Vagramov's defence lawyer, Ian Donaldson, was not immediately available for comment Monday.
Port Moody council has a regularly scheduled meeting tonight (Tuesday) starting at 7 p.m. in the Inlet Theatre.