Vision Vancouver Park Board Commissioners try to avoid the Barnes DUI fallout
CKNW's crack City Hall reporter Janet Brown has reported yet another strange twist in the saga of Vision Vancouver Park Commissioner Constance Barnes. After successive failures to appear in court to face charges for a drunk driving incident that resulted in Barnes slamming her car into a south Vancouver home, questions were raised when Barnes began making public appearances as Commissioner while apparently on leave of absence from the Park Board.
When tracked down by Brown earlier this week, Barnes was reportedly cagey as to whether she would be pleading guilty, as promised in a press conference staged to coincide with the June 10th swearing in of BC's new cabinet. Barnes took nearly 3 weeks to publicly reveal her actions, much to the consternation of a Vision spokesperson. Her statement from was not very vague on the matter of how she would plead:
“I do not intend to challenge this charge. The police arrested me outside of a home in south Vancouver where I had fallen asleep at the wheel and hit a residential home. No one was injured in this incident, however there was damage to the property.
“I take full responsibility for my actions and acknowledge my lack of judgment. This incident follows a time of deep personal struggle, for which I am now receiving support.
“I have enrolled in Alcoholics Anonymous and I am seeking out other professional support to assist me through this time.
Barnes is facing three charges: impaired driving, driving with an alcohol count of over the legal limit, and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.
Then there is the matter of a "stipend" that Barnes was to collect while on leave. Looking into the Barnes file over at the Georgia Straight, Carlito Pablo quoted Park Board Chair Raj Hundal early this month as saying Barnes was done with her treatment for alcoholism and getting ready to come back to work.
“We as a board are really looking forward to her coming back to resume her duties.” According to Hundal, Barnes has completed treatment for her condition and she is back in town.
Asked about getting paid while on leave, Barnes was adament that a "mis-communication" resulted in her receiving any money, and telling NW's Brown that she planned to pay it back.
That was just 2 days before Wednesday evening's story that reveals that Constance Barnes received a "loan" from the City of Vancouver to cover the cost of her treatment. Barnes contradicted herself by telling CKNW that she was covering the costs of her own treatment, when in fact it looks like Vancouver taxpayers have been paying the bills.
Ms. Barnes must get the treatment she needs, and if the City of Vancouver feels it can help an employee few would protest. But when no one wants to be accountable for spending decisions, and the truth is getting bent as it appears in this matter, that's when eyebrows are raised.
As of Wednesday evening, CKNW were unable to get any response from the Park Board Chair nor any of Barnes' Vision colleagues on this matter. NPA Commissioner Ian Robertson says he wasn't told about the financial arrangement.
Barnes carries the weight of her actions as a teenager, when she was found responsible for a car accident that resulted in her passenger getting a serious spine injury. The disabled woman then ended up suing Barnes' father Emery, whose vehicle was under-insured at the time of the accident. Mr. Barnes, a BC MLA, was forced into a personal financial crisis
to fiile personal bankruptcy as a result of the damage settlement.
Constance Barnes was Vision's "star candidate" on their Park Board slate, and she topped the polls beating the 2nd place finisher by over 4000 votes.