The woman who Pitt Meadows Coun. David Murray was convicted of sexually assaulting when she was 14 years old wants a byelection to replace him.
“I’m disappointed in how you’ve handled this situation every step of the way,” she said to council on Tuesday through two women who read a statement from her.
The woman, who cannot be identified because of a publication ban, said his name should no longer appear in council minutes and asked for a byelection to replace him.
Murray is currently on unpaid leave from council, and has tendered his resignation to take effect on Jan. 2., thus avoiding a byelection.
Council recently decided, by a 4-2 vote, to keep the number of councillors at six until the municipal election in October 2018.
Murray was found guilty of sexual assault on Oct. 25.
“For nearly four years now, I’ve felt uncomfortable in my community, and unable to participate in activities I used to enjoy, out of fear of running into the man who molested me as a child,” wrote the woman.
“I’ve had to opt out of community events, stay away from public forums, and battle anxiety attacks to enter the city hall.”
“I’m wondering why his conviction isn’t enough for my community to start supporting me. Why you, Mr. Mayor, haven’t had the decency to start putting me first. When do I get to start feeling comfortable in my community?” she said.
“Why do I have to wait two more months before I can stop seeing my abuser’s name listed as an employee of the City of Pitt Meadows or in the council minutes.”
She said council should make his resignation effective immediately, remove his name from city minutes and hold a byelection.
The woman asked for a response from the mayor, but John Becker said that question period is not the time for debate.
“You have been silent toward the victim through this entire thing. And your silence is deafening,” said one of the victim’s representatives. “You haven’t protected our community. You’ve failed.”
Coun. Bruce Bell made a motion to not proceed with a byelection. He noted that if the byelection went ahead, it would not conclude until March, which would leave just seven months, and council takes the month of August off.
The cost of a byelection would be $30,000, according to a staff report.
“I don’t see the value for the dollars in this,” said Bell. “I think this council can make decisions on behalf of the city.”
He noted there is precedent, when Doug Bing remained on council after being elected MLA for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge.
Council did not support filling his position.
School District No. 42 also opted not to have a byelection to replace Lisa Beare as trustee after she was elected MLA for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge.
“Those are wise decisions,” said Bell.
A byelection would have been triggered automatically if Murray had resigned when he was convicted, and Coun. Tracy Miyashita noted that he instead chose a Jan. 2 date for his resignation, which allowed council’s discretion.
“I’m resentful as all get out that David is calling the shots on this one. That’s what I’m pissed off about,” Miyashita said to a round of applause from the gallery.
“That’s why I’m going to not support this option, because he shouldn’t be allowed to do that, and tell us what to do with the byelection.”
Coun. Bill Dingwall said the cost and staff time are worth the benefit of having another councillor.
He said the there is an “elevated level of discussion and emotion in the community,” and a decision to have a byelection would restore public trust in the city and council.
He said a byelection would empower Murray’s victim “by saying people in positions of authority who have been convicted don’t continue to hold power. That’s important”
And he said a decision for a byelection “lives up to the spirit and intent of the community charter,” in that the Jan. 2 date is not the date Murray left city business.
Dingwall said this byelection should not be compared with Bing’s situation, calling it extraordinary circumstances that have never happened before.
“You don’t overlay sexual assault of a 14-year-old with somebody departing to run for an MLA position. They’re not the same,” he said, and also got round of applause.
Coun. Janis Elkerton said council has been down to six for 18 months without holding a byelection in the past, and said it takes a new councillor three to six months of experience before they become effective at the council table.
She said a byelection would lead to more politicking and interfere with good governance.
“My first consideration is whether city council can effectively serve the community with having just the six of us. I think the diversity of opinion is adequately reflected in the six of us,” said Becker. “I see no impairment to our effectiveness or efficiency by moving ahead with just six.”
He said with the councillors stipend and byelection costs, council will be saving as much as $50,000 by continuing with six councillors. It would also disrupt staff and there is “a massive amount of work to be done.”
A member of the public, Patricia Gordon, noted during question period that, for all intents and purposes, Murray is already gone from council.
“His name plate is gone. His name is gone from the city webpage. And as of today, at about 3 o’clock, he is gone – he has been been Photoshop-ped out – from the group council photo that appears on the city webpage.”
However, she noted, Murray is still listed on city minutes as being absent.