Barber enters rehab, plans to remain on board

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Facing a second charge of driving while impaired, Rowan County Commissioner Jon Barber said Friday he has entered a rehabilitation program, and while he’ll miss some meetings, he plans to stay on the county board.
This could present a challenge to the rest of the commissioners as they enter this year’s budget season with one absent member and no tiebreaker.
In an email sent late Friday afternoon to a Post reporter, editor and others, Barber wrote:
“Thank you all for your prayers and concerns. I have been admitted to a long-term inpatient rehabilitation program. This program will evaluate, treat and recommend ongoing treatment for my recovery.
“I will be unable to attend the Board of Commissioners meetings until I am released and well. I plan to continue serving the citizens of Rowan County.”
Barber was charged Sunday with driving while impaired and failing to maintain lane control after authorities said he crashed his car into a ditch and failed a field sobriety test. Barber, of 335 Umberger Road, refused a sobriety breath test and was taken to Rowan Regional Medical Center for blood to be drawn for testing, according to an arrest warrant.
It is Barber’s second drunken driving charge, and he pleaded guilty to the first in 2008.
Last May, he admitted to a battle with alcoholism after resigning from his teaching job amid allegations he was drunk in a classroom full of students. He has refused to address those allegations. Former District Attorney Bill Kenerly considered charges, but said there were no criminal violations involving students and that Barber could not be “successfully prosecuted” for other crimes based on blood-alcohol test results obtained by the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
And authorities recently acknowledged the SBI is investigating Barber as a suspect in the April 10 theft of a $2.99 bottle of wine from the Rushco store at 601 W. Jake Alexander Blvd.
Barber did not return calls or emails from the Post on Friday.
County Commissioner Chad Mitchell, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said he thinks it’s good Barber is getting whatever help he needs.
“I’m glad he is seeking treatment,” he said. “I think the most important thing is for him to get help.”
Mitchell said it’s always been Barber’s choice whether to resign as a commissioner, and it seems he’s decided not to.
This means the board likely will start budget discussions in June with only four members in Barber’s absence and no way to break a tie.
“We run our meetings by majority rule,” Mitchell said. “Any motion that does not receive three votes dies.”
For the board’s general business, Mitchell said he doesn’t expect a problem. “Certainly, we have some potential for 2-2 votes, but if you look at most of the business we conduct, most of the time we have unanimous decisions,” he said. “But on the budget, that might be a completely different story.”
The board will hold a public hearing June 6 on the proposed fiscal year 2011 budget presented by County Manager Gary Page.
Commissioners then will meet at one or more workshops, where their straw votes will shape the final budget the board is supposed to pass by June 30.
County Commissioner Carl Ford declined to comment on Barber’s admittance to a rehabilitation program, but he said having no majority vote could be a problem.
“If something fails, it’s 90 days before it can be put back on the agenda and voted on again,” Ford said. “I’m not saying we will, but we could end up with no budget.”