Barber returns for meeting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 21, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Jon Barber returned to his seat on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday after leaving it empty for the past two meetings to attend a rehabilitation program.
In an email sent to the Post May 13, Barber said he was being admitted to a long-term inpatient program and he could not attend board meetings until he was “released and well.”
His return eased commissioners’ concerns that the board would not have a tiebreaking vote for last night’s budget deliberation. Three of the five county budget ordinances passed unanimously, and Barber voted in a 3-2 majority to approve each of the remaining two.
Neither Barber nor any of the other commissioners addressed his absence during Monday’s budget workshop and regular meeting.
“I would like to thank everybody for your concerns, your support and your prayers,” Barber said after the regular meeting. “I must now move on with my lifelong plans of recovery, one day at a time.”
He would not answer questions about the program or his recent impaired driving charge, and he said he had no comment in response to calls for his resignation.
In his May 13 email, Barber wrote that he plans to continue serving Rowan County as a commissioner.
Barber was charged May 8 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.
He refused a blood-alcohol breath test and was taken to Rowan Regional Medical Center for blood to be drawn, according to an arrest warrant.
Barber’s court case was continued June 7 to Aug. 2. It is his second drunken driving charge, and he pleaded guilty to the first in 2008.
Last May, Barber 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.
Last month, authorities 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.
Board Chairman Chad Mitchell did not return a call Monday night about Barber’s return, and Vice Chairman Carl Ford declined to comment after the board’s regular meeting.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.