Penticton panhandler Paul Braun is scheduled to return to court after not meeting the conditions of his guilty plea for violating the city’s panhandling bylaw.
At a sentencing September, Braun agreed to pay $145 to the city for eight counts of panhandling in the breezeway between Main Street and the alleyway east of the street in the 200 block and for the associated court costs. He also agreed to complete 60 hours of community service for the city by the court-appointed deadline of Dec. 15, 2018.
According to Tina Siebert, bylaw supervisor for the city, Braun did not pay his fines or complete his community service hours.
“Since he breached the court order, we have to go back to court in a couple of weeks,” said Siebert. “He just did a very small portion (of his hours). If he was only a couple hours short of completing it, we definitely wouldn’t be in this situation. But it wasn’t close.”
Siebert said the court did not stipulate what he had to do to fulfill his hours, just that he had to work alongside her. She said some of the tasks she had set aside for him included garbage collection and desk work.
“He did start doing his hours and then he just stopped showing up,” said Siebert. “He didn’t provide a reason for not completing the hours.”
The previous city council and former mayor Andrew Jakubeit took some heat from the public in early 2018 when they made the decision to take Braun to court. At the time, he had eight outstanding bylaw violations for “panhandling in a manner to cause obstruction.” Jakubeit said he did receive a lot of support from community members who were happy to see the city taking action against bylaw offenders.
“Everyone in the community expects people to conform to bylaw, it’s there for a reason,” said Jakubeit. “So if people don’t comply to that, the city doesn’t have much choice but to take them to court. And in Mr. Braun’s case, the city tried on several occasions to reach out and make a difference and find a compromise for him. At the end of the day, going through the court system, which is very expensive, and he had a very minimal fine but to not even do the community service?
“The fines were really symbolic, the community service was for him to acknowledge that he had crossed some lines with bylaw … I guess it’s kind of disappointing and frustrating to find a compromise and a mutually agreed upon consequence and then it not be taken serious so we’re back in the same spot.”
Deputy mayor Julius Bloomfield, who is stepping in while Mayor John Vassilaki is out of town, said he was recently in touch with Braun but ultimately the next steps are out of councils hands.
“I explained to him that the city is doing what the judge ordered both sides to do. And I told him, ‘The trouble is, you failed to show up’ so now we have no option to report that to the court,” said Bloomfield. “I recommended to Mr. Braun to find a possible solution to the predicament and present that to the judge, because the judge is the one who has to be satisifed now, not the city.”
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