PORT MOODY, B.C. — A mayor who stepped aside after he was charged with sexual assault has returned to work in Port Moody, B.C.
Rob Vagramov said Monday that since he took a voluntary leave of absence in March, the Crown and his lawyer have extensively discussed his case.
"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 told a news conference.
"From this point forward, this process should no longer require the level of involvement and attention that it once did. And as such I no longer require the leave granted to me from my responsibilities at city hall."
British Columbia's prosecution service said the sexual assault charge against Vagramov is still before the court and the special prosecutor indicated in June that the Crown would proceed summarily on the matter. The next court appearance in the case is scheduled for Thursday.
When it announced the charge in March, the prosecution service said the mayor was alleged to have committed an assault in Coquitlam in 2015.
Vagramov has denied the allegation.
In June, he stopped collecting a salary during his leave of absence after some residents criticized him for continuing to accept a paycheque.
He told reporters Monday he has learned first-hand how slowly the wheels of the justice system proceed, which may be frustrating at times but is ultimately a good thing.
"Now admittedly, 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.
He said he contacted Port Moody's city manager and executive leadership team earlier in the day to arrange his return and he's "excited" to be back.
Vagramov said he will resume his regular duties including heading several committees, but another councillor will continue to fill in for him as chair of the police board until his case is concluded.
Vagramov was 28 when he was elected mayor last fall after serving one term on council.
He made headlines during the campaign when a 2014 video surfaced in which he asked a homeless man to chug a beer with him in exchange for a sandwich. He explained on the campaign trail that his heart was in the right place at the time but the video was embarrassing in hindsight.