Metro Vancouver mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to 'awkward date'

VANCOUVER — A mayor in Metro Vancouver says a sexual assault charge against him that has now been stayed stemmed from an "awkward date" that could have benefited from more communication.

Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov told a news conference Thursday that he went on a number of dates with a woman in 2015 and it wasn't a match.

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He says it was only four years later that he learned that the complainant had an "issue" with how one date unfolded and he feels "awful" that she was left with a negative impression.

A special prosecutor stayed the charge on Wednesday after Vagramov completed an alternative measures program, which can be used in less serious cases involving offenders with no criminal history.

Vagramov, who has always denied the charge, says the Crown and complainant agreed to the program and it involved an apology to the woman.

He was asked whether he acknowledged any responsibility for the charge as part of the process and he replied that he's always been clear with prosecutors about what he did and did not do.

"I apologized to the complainant way back when this first came out for the awkward date that we had. I apologized again recently," he says.

"And if she brought this up back in 2015, I would have gladly apologized then because it was never my intention to leave her with any kind of negative impression."

The mayor says he's very happy to have his name cleared and plans to transition back to office over the next few days and resume his full duties in Monday.

In the coming weeks, he says he'll try to arrange a meeting with the minister of municipal affairs to push for legislative changes to clarify how these situations are handled when a mayor is charged with a crime.

Vagramov says he supports changes that would require government officials who have been charged with a crime to take a leave of absence, and force officials who have been convicted of crimes to leave office permanently.

The mayor took a leave of absence after the charges were announced in March before returning to city hall in September. After an outcry from some fellow councillors, he took another leave in October.

Vagramov says he wants to ensure that no other community in British Columbia goes through something similar and he's very regretful about some of the division the matter has caused in the community.

"This situation, I think, would have been handled a lot more smoothly if we had clarity from the province."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 14, 2019.

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