Pitt Meadows council held a special meeting Monday night to deal with the fallout from a councillor’s sex assault conviction.
David Murray said on Sunday that he will be resigning from Pitt Meadows council. Last week, he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 13- or 14-year-old girl who worked at his business in 1992.
Murray did not immediately resign on Wednesday, when he was found guilty in Port Coquitlam provincial court. Members of the public expressed shock that he was still in office.
The media asked how a man convicted of sex assault could remain on Pitt Meadows council.
Murray chose to resign after a meeting with Mayor John Becker on Sunday.
“As promised, I am writing to report that today, I met with David Murray and obtained his resignation from city council,” wrote Becker on his Facebook page, Oct. 29.
Under the post were many comments, some thanking Becker for his leadership, and others saying it should have happened sooner.
Becker later added in a news release Tuesday that Pitt Meadows council “is satisfied to have reached an agreement with Mr. Murray that is in the best interests of all parties.
“We appreciate that this situation has caused great concern in our community and among our staff.”
Becker added that Murray will cease immediately participating in city activities or council business.
The resignation takes effect Jan. 2 and alleviates the legislated requirement to hold a byelection and keeps the decision in the hands of city council. This gives council time to evaluate the merits, costs and staff resources required to conduct a byelection in such close proximity to the regularly scheduled election in October 2018, the release said.
Becker added that council regrets not being more pro-active in communications, pointing out there’s no legal ability to remove an elected official.
Instead, council will try to push for changes to the Community Charter to allow the suspension or firing of an elected official convicted of a criminal offence.
Coun. Bill Dingwall is critical of council’s handling of Murray’s legal battle, from the time he was first charged in November 2016. He and Coun. Tracy Miyashita asked in January 2017 that the issue be discussed by council, but it hadn’t been until Monday.
“I do believe council dropped the ball here,” said Dingwall. “We should have had a communication strategy.” He added that he apologizes to the community.
“They deserve better.”
He acknowledged that neither Becker nor council have the authority to compel Murray to resign. It is up to the councillor.
“There’s a gap in the legislation that needs to be addressed,” said Dingwall. Because Murray dated his resignation Jan. 2, there will not be an automatic byelection, and whether a new councillor is elected or not, is at council’s discretion.
Until Jan. 2, he will be on unpaid leave.
Dingwall said the resignation should be in effect immediately, and an automatic byelection triggered. A new councillor would have almost a year, and he said council has important issues ahead.
Murray will be back in court for a sentencing hearing on Jan. 10, 2018 and could appeal the decision.
Murray said previously that he was surprised by the verdict.