Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov will not return to chair the city’s police board until he resolves his charge of sexual assault, the board announced Friday.
In a statement, the board said Vagramov had effectively resumed his position after returning to council from a voluntary leave of absence amid the allegation, following the rules of the B.C. Police Act.
But according to the board, Vagramov has indicated “he will not be involved in or cast a vote in relation to board decision-making or attend board meetings.”
The other board members, who have been appointed by council and the province, will elect a new chair among themselves to lead meetings.
The board did not say when that vote would take place. Its next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 4.
Coun. Meghan Lahti served as both acting mayor and chair of the police board during Vagramov’s absence. However, she refused to remain chair when Vagramov returned, saying it was not in compliance with the Police Act.
Under the Police Act, the mayor of a municipality with its own police force is the automatic chair of the police board.
Vagramov sparked controversy in September upon returning to council more than five months after he voluntarily stepped aside to focus on the allegation.
In his return, the mayor indicated he was seeking to resolve the allegations through an out-of-court alternative measures process, and that he believed that the charges would ultimately be stayed or withdrawn.
Vagramov has maintained his innocence regarding the assault allegation, which relates to an incident alleged to have happened in 2015 when he was a city councillor.
His return sparked outrage among members of the community and his fellow councillors. A motion brought forward by Coun. Diana Dilworth called for Vagramov to go back on leave until the legal situation was resolved.
The motion passed 4-3 Tuesday night, and Vagramov said he would take the vote and public input heard at the meeting into consideration.
No legal mechanism exists under B.C.’s Community Charter and Local Government Act to force a sitting mayor or councillor to step down due to a criminal charge or even a conviction.
Past efforts to change those laws through the Union of B.C. Municipalities have hit roadblocks.
Councillors next plan to ask the province to come up with a process for dealing with elected civic officials facing a criminal offence.
—With files from Simon Little