A petition was started on Saturday to force a Pitt Meadows city councillor out of office after his sex assault conviction.
Coun. David Murray was convicted on Thursday of sexually assaulting a 13 or 14-year-old girl in 1992.
He said on Friday that he is not stepping down at this time. Murray noted that he will be sentenced sometime in March, and then will have the opportunity to file an appeal.
An online petition to force him from office was started on Friday morning, and within 24 hours had already reached 500 supporters.
Becker said he and staff determined on Wednesday afternoon that Murray should resign, but confirmed they have no legal authority to compel him to do so. The mayor had spoken to Murray that morning, the day he received the judge’s verdict, and said the councillor was in a state of shock, and needed to speak to his lawyer.
“It was the unanimous view of myself and senior staff that Councillor Murray needed to resign forthwith. The question was how I was going to manage the conversation with Councillor Murray in a way that provided some element of due process but nonetheless brought us to that result through his agreement,” said Becker’s Facebook post.
The petition was started by Pitt Meadows father Jamie Schwingenschloegl, who is a longtime coach and has a 16-year-old daughter. He said the quick response shows the community’s frustration.
“It’s a testament to how angry people in the community are about him not resigning, and at the mayor’s position on this as well,” said Schwingenschloegl.
He said it is shocking that there is no legislation to force Murray out of office, unless he actually misses council time because he is serving time in prison.
Schwingenschloegl is incredulous Mayor John Becker would compare Murray’s sex assault conviction to being involved in a car accident, bankruptcy or messy divorce during a media interview, saying none of these relates to his work on council.
The comparison is also upsetting to people in Pitt Meadows, said Schwingenschloegl, particularly in light of high-profile sex assault allegations in Hollywood, and the social media campaign #MeToo which denounces sex assault and harassment.
“As a society, what message are we sending to our young females, that if they come forward nothing happens to the offender?”
However, Becker said in a Facebook post on Saturday that his comments were taken out of context.
“What I said was that city council had no more legal authority to suspend or dismiss a city councillor for sexual assault charges or any conviction, than other personal matters unrelated to their position as a city councillor. In no way was I stating or implying a qualitative similarity between the matters. Clearly there is not, and I would never suggest to the contrary,” wrote Becker.
Schwingenschloegl said he had met Murray about seven years ago, when Murray followed the fortunes of his soccer team for his online community news publication. When he learned of the charges against Murray, he and other coaches said they would give him the benefit of being innocent until proven guilty.
Now, he says, the verdict is in.
“The courts have found him guilty, and at this time he needs to take a step back.”
He said there also needs to be changes in legislation that would force a convicted councillor out of office.
Murray did not return calls from The News.