(THE NEWS/files) Local author and environmentalist Scott Magri said assault charges from his past should not keep him from running for Pitt Meadows council.

Don’t let criminal record stop council candidates: Magri

Pitt Meadows man worries old charges might affect him

Scott Magri worries that his past criminal convictions could preclude him from running for Pitt Meadows council as it lobbies the province for changes.

Council is going to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention this fall, proposing changes that would require politicians convicted of serious crimes to be removed from office.

The issue came up in October 2017, when former Pitt Meadows city councillor David Murray was convicted of sexually assaulting a teen in 1992.

Council had no legal way to force Murray out of office. He left at the end of January voluntarily after a meeting with Mayor John Becker.

Murray was sentenced to nine months in jail, and would have been forced out of office if he had missed enough meetings. However, he is appealing the verdict and sentencing, and was released from custody.

There is potential under existing laws that a person in his situation could still be serving on a municipal council.

Magri agrees Murray should not be allowed to serve on Pitt Meadows council. However, he asserts that someone with a criminal past should not be precluded from running for council.

In 2011, Magri authored the book Lessons: Crime, Games & Pain, about his criminal past and struggles with addiction. He has three assault charges – one for pushing a store clerk and two for fighting in night clubs.

“Everybody has got a past, and that’s life in my books – you live and learn,” he said. “I’m not hiding anything.”

Magri ran for council in 2014 and received 1,224 votes. Many voters knew him for his environmental work on the Katzie Slough Restoration Project. He wasn’t too far from winning a council seat – Murray was successfully elected with the lowest total on council at 1,851 votes.

“They knew all about my past, and they were going to vote for me anyway,” Magri said of voters.

Magri, who turns 50 in September, said crime is in his past.

He does not believe past convictions, for which has already atoned, should be held against him, or other people who have criminal records.

Becker said that is not the intention of the resolution being proposed by Pitt Meadows council, and which was defeated at the Lower Mainland Local Government Association conference in May.

“It deals narrowly with situations where a person is elected and already in office, and is convicted of an offence,” he said.

“Our resolution would have no impact on Scott Magri’s ability to run for office.”

Becker, a lawyer, believes that when convicted people have served their sentences, they should be able to stand for office.

“The public could make a decision at that time.”

However, he agreed that once this issue of council members is before the provincial government, which alone has the authority to make changes to the Municipal Act, any changes made could be different than those recommended by Pitt Meadows or the UBCM.

The 2018 UBCM convention will be held Sept. 10-14 in Whistler.

Magri said he has not determined whether he will run for council again in 2018.

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