From the early days of his candidacy through his first 10 months in office, Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov hasn’t so much been a lightning rod for criticism and controversy as he has a storm cloud, sending out random thunderbolts for his many supporters to dodge and defend.
First, there was the surfacing last fall of the infamous video he shot of himself in 2014 in which he used a homeless man as a prop in a twisted random act of kindness, offering the man a sandwich if he would shotgun a beer with Vagramov.
In response to that video’s exposure and the ensuing criticism, Vagramov gave a number of different responses over three days, first saying he was young at the time; then saying the video was being used by his political opponents because “there is big money and development to be lost” if he were elected; and finally stating: “This is something that I would never even consider doing again.”
Second, just a few months after he won Port Moody’s top elected office, he recommended the husband of a councillor who’s his closest political ally for a position on the city’s police board; that man was appointed but soon resigned after concerns were raised about a potential conflict of interest.
Last week, when The Tri-City News reported the mayor had a hand in the controversial appointment, Vagramov defended his actions and said his political opponents were behind public opposition to it.
Third, and most serious, in late March, he was charged with a single count of sexual assault for an incident alleged to have happened in 2015, when he was a city councillor. Vagramov, who proclaimed his innocence, immediately took a paid leave of absence from his $111,000-a-year position, switching to an unpaid leave three months later just as council was about to discuss the matter anew.
He remained on leave until Sept. 9, when he showed up at city hall to resume his duties shortly after notifying the city administrator of his plans, and said he’d done so because his case wasn’t expected to go to trial. The next day, he was at his first council meeting in months. Two days after that, his lawyer said he was working with the special prosecutor on an alternative resolution — one that would take place outside the courts — to the sexual assault charge.
In an interview with The Tri-City News last week, Vagramov said he felt compelled to return to city hall because much of his email was about him going back to work and he blamed “partisan hackery” for opposition to him resuming his duties.
So this is the pattern: self-inflicted wound; denial/deflection/blame; no sign he has learned from previous mistakes.
While we make no judgment as to Mayor Vagramov’s guilt or innocence in his criminal case — that is for the courts to decide, though it appears now that won’t happen — it’s time he break this pattern for his own good and that of his constituents.
And the first step toward doing that is for him to resume his leave of absence until his criminal case is fully and finally resolved.