Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov announces he's returned to office
Vagramov had been on leave since March following a sexual assault charge and has not yet been cleared
Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov, who had been on leave for more than five months following a sexual assault charge, has returned to office.
Vagramov resumed his duties on Monday and said he would return to all of his previous responsibilities, with the exception of his position on the Port Moody Police Board.
"This matter is and has been an absolute nightmare for myself, my partner and my family. At the same time, my absence from city hall has been a regrettable burden on city business," he said.
Vagramov temporarily stepped down on March 28, after a special prosecutor approved a sex assault charge against him. The alleged offence took place on April 1, 2015, when Vagramov was a councillor.
Originally, he had been collecting a salary while on leave, but that stopped in June.
Nature of case unclear
The case has not been resolved, with another court appearance scheduled for Thursday. But Vagramov said he is confident that the nature of the case — and the time required to contest it — has been reduced enough for him to return to work.
"What was initially pursued as quite a scary indictment has since been starkly reduced to a summary matter, with the Crown and my legal counsel now exploring a resolution that would not involve a trial at all," he said.
Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel for the B.C. Prosecution Service, said the "original sexual assault charge against Mr. Vagramov is still before the court." He could provide no further details on the offence.
However, he said the Crown has been proceeding on the charge for several months as a summary offence — meaning the crime is not considered as serious.
Vagramov declined to answer multiple questions about the status of the case, instead encouraging reporters "to reach out to my lawyer."
That lawyer, Ian Donaldson, declined to comment to CBC News.
WATCH: Mayor Rob Vagramov announces his return to office and takes questions from reporters
Split on council
Vagramov said he is eager to return to council, which has had several tie votes during his five-month absence.
"I think the constant three-three votes on some of the big issues have been a driver of anxiety in the city," he said.
"Luckily not too much has gotten to the point where it's been such a confrontational state. But there are going to be some some big decisions to be made in the coming few weeks."
Councillor Diana Dilworth, who has opposed much of Vagramov's agenda, acknowledged that the mayor's absence had "really resulted in a lot of uncertainty and instability."
Dilworth said she was disappointed to not hear from Vagramov prior to his announcement on Monday, but was hopeful the mayor would lead council on a more conciliatory path going forward.
"I'm hoping that perhaps he can bring a sense of collaborativeness, and can help get over the division that has been established on our council and that's reflected in our community," she said.