Port Moody mayor will resume leave of absence over sex assault charge

Tri-City News

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Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov speaks to the press on Thursday, March 28, 2019. On Tuesday, Oct. 15, Vagramov announced he would resume his leave of absence. File photo by Mario Bartel/Tri-City News

Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov announced Tuesday night that he’s heading back on leave.

In a statement, the first-term mayor, who is currently facing a sex assault charge, said he has been able to put the issues he ran on, including moderating development and reviewing the city’s official community plan, “back on track” in the month since he resumed his duties.

“With that done, we need to turn down the dramatics, and focus on the work at hand,” he said. “There is no legal requirement for me to be away from my elected role, but today I am exercising my discretion to go back on leave without pay until I am cleared of the charges held against me.”

He added that he values the community input he has received over the last few weeks and asked his supporters “for some patience at this time.”

Vagramov noted some of the hostility from community members directed at him since the charges first came to light.

“I know that this won’t satisfy everyone,” he said Tuesday. “From what I can tell, some people out there won’t be happy until they see my head on a stake.”

When contacted by The Tri-City News, Vagramov said he would not be commenting beyond his prepared statement.

“I’ve said all I have to say,” he wrote in a text message.

Vagramov originally took a leave of absence last March after a special prosecutor approved the charge against him. At the time, he denied the allegations and said he needed to focus on his defence.

However, last month he announced he would be returning to work and said he expected his legal issues to come to a conclusion shortly.

“The heavy lifting has been done,” Vagramov said in September. “I am no longer required to give as much time to the case itself.”

But not everyone agreed with his decision to resume his mayoral duties.

Pressure began to mount last week after council voted 4-3 in favour of Vagramov stepping down until his case is completely resolved. Since then, several of the mayor’s allies added their voices to those asking him to take another leave of absence.

“Allegations of sexual assault must be treated seriously,” said Port Moody-Coquitlam NDP MLA Rick Glumac, who endorsed Vagramov in last year’s mayoral campaign. “It is my hope that the mayor of Port Moody will do what’s in the best interests of the people of Port Moody. While this investigation is still underway, he should reconsider his decision to return from leave.”

Glumac’s statement came five days after Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson, an NDP MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville, told the house she “hoped” the mayor would “listen to the community and do the right thing.”

STATEMENT FROM MAYOR ROB VAGRAMOV

I ran for Mayor to make a positive contribution to Port Moody, and I am very happy to see the huge issues of moderating development, saving Bert Flinn Park, keeping city lands in public hands, reviewing our Official Community Plan, and others, put back on track with decisive votes last Tuesday. This gives staff adequate direction on these issues for work in the months ahead.

With that done, we need to turn down the dramatics, and focus on the work at hand. There is no legal requirement for me to be away from my elected role, but today I am exercising my discretion to go back on leave without pay until I am cleared of the charges held against me.

I know that this won’t satisfy everyone. From what I can tell, some people out there won’t be happy until they see my head on a stake, but for the vast majority of reasonable folks out there: After taking time to filter out the partisan noise, I hear your input, I value it, and it does play greatly into my decision making here at City Hall. To folks who have been so supportive over the past few months, I ask for some patience during this time.

Over the next few days I will be assisting in a smooth transition for our Acting Mayor, Councillor Steve Milani, before stepping away, and I expect to return to office in the next 3 – 4 weeks to continue serving in the role I was elected, for the balance of this term.

– Mayor Rob
City of Port Moody