Just a day before Port Moody council was to conduct its planned 45-day review of Mayor Rob Vagramov’s paid leave of absence, Vagramov announced he would no longer accept his $111,833 annual salary while he contests a charge of sexual assault.
But he had already earned almost $26,000 between the time the charge was announced and he took his leave and Monday's announcement.
Vagramov shared his decision with city councillors in an email they received at about 3 p.m. Monday. In the email, he said because his case is “taking longer to resolve than I had expected,” he has “become less and less comfortable receiving a full salary the longer this legal situation takes.”
Vagramov sent a copy of the email to council to The Tri-City News but did not respond to requests for comment.
Vagramov’s leave took effect March 29, the day after the charge was announced by a special prosecutor who had been assigned to investigate allegations about an incident that is alleged to have taken place in Coquitlam in 2015.
Later March 28, in a special closed meeting, council granted Vagramov paid leave.
But less than a month later, council announced it would review its decision, and on May 8 it decided to stay the course but review the leave every 45 days.
According to Port Moody’s general manager of finance and technology, Paul Rockwood, in the almost three months since Vagramov’s leave started, his gross salary was $25,719.60, minus deductions of $8,145.20. He also earned nearly $2,000 in paid benefits, including extended health, dental and MSP coverage.
Acting Mayor Meghan Lahti said a review of Vagramov’s leave is now moot. “We don’t have much to review if he’s taking an unpaid leave,” she told The Tri-City News.
Coun. Diana Dilworth agreed. “I am pleased that he made a decision that I can support,” she said, adding she believes it’s in the best interests of Port Moody’s taxpayers.
Coun. Hunter Madsen defended the initial decision to grant Vagramov paid leave.
“I totally get why it might seem wrong to some folks that a city official gets pay while on a leave from work,” he said. “But the fact is that paid leave makes it possible for an official to step away voluntarily and remove any distracting controversy from city hall.”
Vagramov, who was elected Port Moody’s youngest mayor — at 26-years-old — last October after serving a single term on council, said in his email his paid leave was “100% in line with the only existing guidelines on such situations (the UBCM guidelines) and have been extremely helpful and deeply appreciated.”
At a hearing June 17 in provincial court in Port Coquitlam, special prosecutor Michael Klein — with Vagramov’s consent — applied to proceed with the case summarily under Section 786 of the Criminal Code of Canada. That means the trial would take place in provincial court, with no option to elect trial by jury or by a superior court justice, along with no preliminary inquiry. It also means Vagramov could face a lesser penalty if he’s convicted. His case was then adjourned until July 15.