Port Moody council to vote on mayor’s return from leave

Port Moody council will vote Tuesday on a motion by Coun. Diana Dilworth to ask Mayor Rob Vagramov to resume the leave of absence he took after he was charged with sexual assault in March.

But it won’t get the chance to debate Dilworth’s motion until after several other contentious motions put forward by Vagramov have been dealt with.

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Those include removing the David Avenue right-of-way through Bert Flinn Park from the city’s official community plan as well as rejecting early plans by a consortium of property owners to develop 23-acres of property adjacent to the Moody Centre SkyTrain station.

Before dealing with Dilworth's motion, council will also be asked to approve spending $2,500 from its contingency fund on new furniture for guests visiting Vagramov’s office.

In her report to council, Dilworth said Vagramov’s abrupt return from his leave Sept. 9 has caused “divisiveness in our community and is distracting to the serious role of governance that we were elected to fulfill.”

Vagramov went on a paid leave March 29, the day after it was announced he was charged with a single count of sexual assault for an incident that is alleged to have occurred in Coquitlam in 2015. Two months later, and the day before council was scheduled to review the status of his leave, he announced he would no longer accept his $111,833 salary while he remained on leave.

But with the case set to proceed summarily, without a trial, Vagramov returned to his office Sept. 9, saying his defence no longer required his undivided attention. The next night, his return to council chambers was greeted with pointed criticism and even anger from several speakers at public input as well as cheers and applause from others.

That prompted one speaker to remark, “I never thought I’d be in a room where an unresolved matter of sexual assault is cheered.” Another person held up a hand-lettered sign imploring Vagramov to resign.

Dilworth, who put forth her notice of motion for Vagramov to step aside at that Sept. 10 meeting, said she has documented feedback from more than 200 Port Moody residents with concerns about the mayor’s return to office while his criminal charge is still outstanding.

“I am confident that all members of council have heard this significant level of concern,” she said in her report.

And while Dilworth concedes there’s no legal requirement for Vagramov to stay away from the mayor’s office while his charge is dealt with, she said he is violating Port Moody council’s own code of conduct bylaw that requires elected members to conduct “themselves in a manner that promotes public confidence and will bear close public scrutiny.”

Vagramov’s case is due to return to Port Coquitlam provincial court Nov. 13.

At the last court date associated with his case, his defence lawyer and a lawyer for the Crown said they plan to seek “alternative measures” for dealing with the sexual assault charge.

As The Tri-City News previously reported, when such measures are approved, while they don't constitute a legal admission of guilt, they do require that an accused accept responsibility for their actions.

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