Port Moody council votes in favour of asking mayor to return to leave of absence
PORT MOODY - Port Moody's council has voted in favour of asking its mayor to take a leave of absence, but the decision isn't binding, meaning it's now up to the mayor to decide what to do.
After a lengthy meeting Tuesday night where Port Moody residents weighed in for nearly two hours, the vote was 4-3 in favour of asking 28-year-old Mayor Rob Vagramov to return to an unpaid leave.
In March, Vagramov was charged with sexual assault and took a voluntary leave of absence for five months. His return wasn't celebrated by some members of council and the public, however.
Tuesday's vote was divided on gender lines, with the four women on council voting in favour of the motion, and the four men – including Vagramov – voting against.
It's unclear, however, if Vagramov will actually follow that request.
"I thank council for their input and I take all these comments, especially what we hear here at public input to heart, and into consideration," he said after the vote.
Coun. Diana Dilworth says she is concerned with the mayor’s response.
“He's going to continue doing what he's doing, he's going to come back and continue to come to council meetings,” Dilworth told reporters after the vote and hearing the mayor's response in council.
She is also concerned about why Vagramov was voting at all.
“He was in a blatant conflict of interest and he should not have been voting on a motion that directly related to his participation on Port Moody city council,” Dilworth said.
“I am going to weigh my options in terms of pursuing that, but I am hearing from a number of residents that are very upset this morning and they may be taking it upon themselves to have him challenged under the community charter,” Dilworth added, when reached by phone Wednesday morning.
Tuesday night's motion included several parts, while the first recommendation, about asking the mayor to return to leave was approved. However, another part of the motion, which stated "once (Vagramov’s) legal issues are resolved, and in the case that he is not totally exonerated, that council formally request the mayor’s resignation," was defeated.
"That would have been a 3-3 tie except the mayor voted on that, and that was defeated," Dilworth said. "I don't believe the mayor should have been voting on any part of that motion that went forward."
Court documents suggest the leave, which was first paid, then unpaid, was connected to an alleged incident in Coquitlam four years ago. Last month, he said his legal team was looking for ways to get to a resolution that wouldn't require a trial.
"This process should no longer require the level of involvement and attention that it once did, and as such, I no longer require the leave granted to me," the mayor said at a news conference at the time.
Ahead of the meeting, Dilworth said since Vagramov's return, members of the public have shown their disapproval, particularly at the last council meeting.
"There was members of the community yelling at each other," she said. There was women who have been victims of sexual abuse that were crying. It was an absolute gongshow and it really distracts from our ability to do the job that we were elected to do."
As there is nothing binding about the motion, it's now ultimately up to the mayor whether he will continue with his job while the charge against him remains unresolved.
Vagramov sent CTV News Vancouver a statement Wednesday afternoon saying he is taking the feedback into consideration but hasn't given a timeline on a decision.
His case is due back in court next month.