Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov is taking a leave of absence from council to fight the sexual assault charge filed against him, which he said stems from a false allegation.
The mayor said his upcoming legal fight will include filing a defamation suit against the alleged victim.
He also confirmed that the allegation first came to light during last fall’s municipal election campaign, and said he has been cooperating with investigators ever since.
“When the allegation first surfaced … I was horrified and taken completely by surprise,” Vagramov told media following an emergency council meeting Thursday afternoon.
WATCH: Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov announces he will take a step back following sexual assault allegations made against him
“The tale grew as it was being told, and I want to be absolutely clear: this allegation is false,” the mayor added. “I intend to pursue them in the court of law, where they belong.”
The charge, which was announced Thursday, relates to an incident alleged to have happened in Coquitlam on April 1, 2015, when Vagramov was a Port Moody city councillor.
According to the alleged victim, whose identity can’t be shared, the pair went on several dates in the spring of 2015 after meeting on the Tinder dating app.
On their last date, the accuser alleges Vagramov became “sexually aggressive.”
Vagramov said he has already submitted to a polygraph test for investigators, which he said he passed, and the results have been handed over to police.
The mayor said he intends to step back from his position starting Friday in order to focus on preparing his legal defence. Council approved the request for paid leave, which will last indefinitely.
LISTEN: CKNW’s Lynda Steele discusses Rob Vagramov’s decision to take a leave of absence
Coun. Diana Dilworth is currently serving as the acting mayor as Vagramov begins his leave of absence.
Other councillors will take over the role on a rotating basis, according to a schedule on the city’s website. Coun. Amy Lubik will take over as acting mayor at the beginning of April.
Vagramov will also be stepping down from his position on Port Moody’s police board.
Before the meeting, Dilworth called the allegation against the mayor “shocking.” She said provincial law doesn’t require elected officials to resign if they’re charged — or even convicted — of a crime.
She recommended Vagramov take a leave of absence and ensure the allegations stay “outside of City Hall so the rest of us can get on with the business of governing the city.”
The BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) says Vancouver lawyer Michael Klein was appointed the special prosecutor in the case on Dec. 17, 2018, but the announcement was postponed pending the approval of charges.
It says Klein was appointed “to avoid any potential for real or perceived improper influence in the administration of justice in light of the nature of the allegations and the identity of the accused as an elected municipal official.”
Klein has been given a mandate to give legal advice to RCMP investigators, as well as conduct-related charge assessments and lead prosecution of any charges approved, the BCPS said.
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One such charge has now been approved, and Vagramov is due for his first appearance in Port Coquitlam Provincial Court on April 25.
Vagramov was elected mayor of Port Moody in last October’s municipal election at the age of 28, becoming the youngest person to win the job.
He previously faced controversy after a 2014 social media video surfaced depicting him asking a homeless man to shotgun a beer in exchange for a sandwich.
—With files from Sarah MacDonald and Simon Little
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