Port Moody councillor won’t chair police board, says mayor ‘has no business being at city hall’

There was more drama at Port Moody City Hall a day after embattled mayor Rob Vagramov made a surprise return from a leave of absence amid sexual assault allegations.

On Tuesday, Councillor Meghan Lahti contradicted the mayor’s earlier statement that she would take up the reins of the city’s police board.

“I reluctantly agreed, but have since reconsidered this and informed him as such,” Lahti said in an email, arguing it would be inappropriate and not compliant with the Police Act considering that Vagramov’s case remains before the courts.

“Quite frankly I was quite taken aback and caught off-guard when he called me while [I am] on vacation in Portugal.”

Vagramov announced Monday that he would end a leave of absence he took on March 29, following revelations he’d been charged with sexual assault.

He said he would resume his duties chairing all committees and boards except for the police board, which Lahti would head.

The mayor said he decided to return after prosecutors elected to proceed with his case as a summary offence. Under the criminal code, a summary conviction on a sexual assault charge carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in jail.

Vagramov has denied the sex assault accusation, which relates to an incident alleged to have happened in 2015 when he was a city councillor. He has previously said he would sue his accuser for defamation.

Lahti said Tuesday she is not comfortable with the mayor returning to work with his case remaining unsettled.

“I believe that until and unless Mr. Vagramov is able to fulfill the duties and responsibilities that he took an oath to perform, he has no business being at city hall,” she said.

“This is not about politics. This is about standing up in solidarity with women across this country and it’s about the fact that he cannot perform his duties while under this cloud.”

In an email, Vagramov’s office said it was “looking into” issues around whether Lahti was qualified under the BC Police Act to chair the police board with him back in office, and would likely comment further on Wednesday.

The BC Prosecution Service confirmed Monday that the charge against Vagramov remains before the courts, and that prosecutors had indicated earlier this summer that they would proceed summarily with the charge.

Vagramov’s next court date is listed as Sept. 12.

-With files from Sarah MacDonald

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