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SBI charges Barber over wine episode

By Karissa Minn
kminn@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — Rowan County Commissioner Jon Barber has been charged with misdemeanor larceny in connection with the April theft of a bottle of wine.
The SBI issued the criminal summons Monday, and Special Agent Sam Gregory personally served it Tuesday to Barber, of 335 Umberger Road in Mount Ulla.
According to the summons, there is probable cause to believe that on April 10, Barber stole a $2.99 bottle of Wild Irish Rose wine from the Rushco convenience store located at 601 W. Jake Alexander Blvd. in Salisbury.
His court appearance has been set for July 6 in Rowan County District Court.
Local and SBI officials confirmed in early May that Barber was a suspect in the state agency’s investigation.
The Salisbury Police Department took a report from an employee at a Jake Alexander Boulevard convenience store that someone stole the bottle of wine and drank it in the men’s bathroom about 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning.
Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins said at the time that officers determined surveillance video of the incident showed Barber as a suspect.
Collins told the Post that District Attorney Brandy Cook called on the SBI to investigate in order to avoid any appearance of conflict, because Barber is a public official and his brother is a former law enforcement officer.
Barber did not return calls from the Post on Friday.
On Monday, he attended his first meeting of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners after a four-week stay at an alcohol rehabilitation program.
“I sincerely hope that he’s able to work through his problems,” said Chad Mitchell, chair of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. “Hopefully, his stay at rehab could allow him to fix some things that he needs to work on.”
Barber has said he plans to continue to serve on the board.
Mitchell reiterated that the board cannot force a member to resign unless the commissioner is convicted of a felony.
County Commissioner Jim Sides said he hopes Barber continues to seek treatment, and he doesn’t think Barber is in a good position to make decisions for the county.
“I think he ought to do what’s right, but I’m not going to say what that is,” Sides said. “I want him to try to get the help he needs.”
This is Barber’s second charge this year. He was charged in May with driving while impaired and failing to maintain lane control after reporting that he crashed his car into a ditch along Graham Road at N.C. 150.
Barber failed a field sobriety test and refused an alcohol breath test, so he was taken to Rowan Regional Medical Center for blood to be drawn, according to an arrest warrant. He is set to appear in court for that charge on Aug. 2.
In June 2008, Barber pleaded guilty to driving while impaired in a separate incident and was sentenced to two years of probation.
He was found in February of that year passed out in his car near the corner of Sherrills Ford and Long Branch roads. His blood-alcohol content measured .18, more than double the legal limit of .08.
Barber resigned from his teaching job with the Rowan-Salisbury School System in May 2010 amid allegations he showed up to his classroom intoxicated.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.

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