Monday not Parkersburg City Councilman Barber’s first arrest
Has record with local law enforcement
PARKERSBURG — His arrest on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstruction Monday was not Parkersburg City Councilman Eric Barber’s first brush with local law enforcement.
He has an outstanding warrant from Belpre Mayor’s Court for failure to appear in 2013 on a possession of marijuana charge, had his driver’s license reinstated earlier this year after a 2012 driving under the influence charge and served time in the state correctional system after pleading guilty to breaking and entering in 1999.
Barber’s background has been scrutinized in recent days moreso than it was during his run for council last year.
He was arrested Monday after allegedly yelling obscenities at the subject of a medical call near his house and refusing to stop or heed police commands. Barber said Tuesday that he disagreed with the way the officer handled the situation but understood that he was causing a problem and regretted his actions. Police Chief Joe Martin said officers acted properly.
Multiple attempts to reach Barber Friday afternoon were unsuccessful.
Wood County Magistrate Court records show Barber was charged with driving on a license revoked for DUI in June 2016. The case was continued with the agreement of the prosecution while he completed an interlock program to get his license reinstated, and the charge was dismissed in May.
The magistrate who handled the case was Joe Kuhl, husband of City Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl. But the case went to him before either Barber or Sharon Kuhl had been elected to council.
Barber pleaded guilty to a DUI charge in February 2012. It was originally charged as a second-offense DUI but reduced to first-offense as part of a plea agreement. Barber was sentenced to six hours, 38 minutes served in jail and assessed $345.25 in fines and court costs.
A bench warrant issued by Belpre Mayor’s Court issued in February 2013 says Barber failed to appear on a charge of possession of marijuana from 2012. Belpre Police Chief Terry Williams said the department won’t extradite on a charge like that but they have contacted Barber, most recently in mid-2016.
“We’ve called him, and he just won’t come in,” Williams said.
In 1999, Barber was sentenced to two to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to two counts of breaking and entering and one of petit larceny, related to three separate incidents, according to records in Wood County Circuit Court.
Barber was released on that sentence from parole, although it was not clear from the records the specific date of his release. His parole was revoked in May of 2003, following his arrest on multiple charges, including felony counts of fleeing while DUI and attempting to bribe a State Police trooper. He ultimately pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of DUI, possession/delivery of a controlled substance and fleeing on foot, according to magistrate records and went back to jail.
The records also show Parkersburg City Attorney Joe Santer was appointed to represent Barber in motions related to his sentence in January 2004. Santer said Friday he did not recall that appointment. No other documents indicated the extent to which Santer represented him.
It is not clear from the records when he was released, but a document in the circuit court records showed he was discharged from parole on June 21, 2006.
A petition posted on change.org calls for Barber to be removed from council. Both the city charter and state law have provisions for doing that, with the municipal process involving a recall election initiated by petitions from residents.
City Council President J.R. Carpenter said he doesn’t know about Barber’s past debts to society and the only thing that concerns him is Barber’s performance as a councilman.
“The rest of it’s irrelevant,” Carpenter said. “He’s contributed, and he’s very passionate about his district and cleaning it up.”
Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce said Barber told him a few months ago about his prior convictions, and the mayor said it did not concern him at the time. He said he’s spoken with Barber this week about his arrest on Monday.
“I believe Eric is more than contrite. I truly believe that he was overcome with emotion at the time,” Joyce said.
He added that Barber owes an apology to his constituents, all Parkersburg citizens, the Police Department and his fellow councilmen.
“As elected officials, we’re held to a higher standard,” Joyce said.
The mayor said he was unaware of Barber’s charge in Belpre but “he needs to get that taken care of, particularly because it’s so local.
“I think Mr. Barber has a lot of potential,” Joyce continued. “He’s an intelligent young person, but it’s obvious he’s made some poor decisions.”
Joyce said he hopes Barber can learn from the current situation and the city can move on.