The City of Penticton has released a settlement offer it sent to defence counsel for a street person accused of violating panhandling bylaws, despite a judge’s cautioning against revealing the proposal in court.
In court Wednesday, as Judge Michelle Daneliuk mentioned a settlement offer from city hall, city lawyer Troy DeSouza was cut off by Daneliuk before he could get into details of the offer.
“There are reporters in this courtroom and this is all on the record,” Daneliuk said. “Although it’s not likely that I’m going to be the trial judge in this venue, I don’t think it’s appropriate just for both your sake and that of Mr. (Paul) Varga and his client to be stipulating on the record what proposal you have made to your friend.”
The City of Penticton decided to release the unredacted offer letter to Paul Braun’s lawyer Paul Varga in a public statement on the city’s website Thursday. The offer included an $88 fine to the city a guilty plea to all counts and a court order mandating compliance with the panhandling bylaws.
If Braun is convicted, the settlement letter said the city would be seeking a fine of $500 per count (adding up to $4,000), and if a payment cannot be made the letter notes jail time in lieu of payment. The city will also seek community service as restitution and a court order to comply with the bylaw.
The letter also notes that the city has 13 witnesses, and pointed to five statements the city expects to hear from some of those witnesses, including city manager Peter Weeber and the Downtown Penticton Association.
Braun was issued a summons last November for eight Good Neighbour Bylaw infractions. That bylaw prohibits panhandling in such a way that causes an obstruction, the definition of which includes being within 10 metres of a sheltered public walkway.
The court proceeding is for an eight-count information pursuant to the Offence Act as a result of breaching a section of Penticton’s Good Neighbour Bylaw. Municipal governments can enforce their bylaws in a number of different ways — including statutory civil injunction in Supreme Court, issuing tickets and commencing a long-form information prosecution under the Offence Act in provincial court. According to the city lawyer, the ticketing process uses a less formal procedure and results in lower fines than the long-form prosecution process, which they are using in this case.
Since then, the city’s court action against Braun has drawn the ire of some of the public, but in the city’s statement, DeSouza said the Braun case was a matter of principle.
“If the city cannot establish control of its downtown sidewalks around a simple 10-metre breezeway, we will not be successful in addressing other or more serious behaviours,” DeSouza said in a written statement.
The city noted feedback from the community, which it claimed has called on city hall to step up downtown enforcement.
“Unfortunately, for some who were in contravention of the bylaw, education was not effective, tickets were not effective,” the city’s statement said. “The Paul Braun case is part of an overall effort by the city to address unacceptable behaviour downtown and in the greater community.”
The Penticton Western News is pleased to clarify our earlier on-line version of this story which was posted on May 4, 2018. Lest there be any doubt, there is no suggestion that counsel for the City of Penticton disobeyed a provincial court order or direction. The Court’s comments concerned the proceeding before the judge on May 2nd and do not concern or restrict a subsequent press release by the City of May 3 which included terms of a “final offer” to Paul Braun.