After a lengthy legal dispute that has cost the taxpayers of Penticton almost $30,000 in legal fees, a panhandler has been banned from the 200 block of Main Street for one year.
Paul Braun pleaded guilty to eight counts of obstructive panhandling in Penticton provincial court on Wednesday morning, after contravening the Good Neighbour Bylaw.
Braun was ordered to pay $88 in fines, perform 60 hours of community service, and comply with the bylaw.
The bylaw states that panhandling is prohibited within 10 metres of pedestrian breezeways, ATMs, bus stops or public washrooms.
Braun is a well-known street person who has frequented the 200 block of Main Street and was often viewed panhandling in the breezeway. He said he agreed to the plea deal because he didn’t want to risk going to jail.
“I feel like I was backed into a corner,” he said outside the courthouse.
Prosecutor Jarrett Plonka pointed out that Braun had rejected a similar settlement offered by the city in May and refused to comply with the bylaw.
Watch below: After a lengthy legal dispute that has cost the taxpayers of Penticton almost $30,000 in legal fees, a panhandler has been banned from the 200 block of Main Street for one year.
“Of all of the people who might be panhandling in prohibited areas, virtually all of them move along when they are told what the prohibition is and why they are not allowed to panhandle,” Plonka said after the court hearing.
“The problem is simply that Mr.Braun was the only person who didn’t move along when asked to do so.”
When asked why Braun did not accept the earlier settlement, which appears to be more favourable and would have saved taxpayers money, Braun’s lawyer alleged the city attempted to tank negotiations by placing garbage cans in the same spot Braun is known to frequent.
“Nobody should have to deal with that, especially someone who is part of the most disadvantaged part of society,” said Paul Varga, who took on the case pro bono.
Plonka denied the claim and bylaw supervisor Tina Siebert said the city was not targeting Braun.
“Just like anyone else, we would follow the same process. This one case just went on for way too long,” she said.
Braun said he is no longer homeless and has been provided shelter at the Fairhaven social housing complex. He said he is on disability income assistance and may panhandle again if he has to.
A plea deal has been reached in a panhandling case that pitted the City of Penticton against a homeless man.
Today, a three-day trial was to begin in the Paul Braun case. The city was seeking a court order against the panhandler, saying his presence along the 200 block of Main Street contradicted its Good Neighbour bylaw, which states “no person shall panhandle in a manner to cause an obstruction.”
Prosecutor Jarrett Plonka told Global News on Wednesday morning that a plea deal has been reached. More details to come.
For approximately six years, Braun had been panhandling in the same spot, a breezeway. Two neighbouring businesses said Braun isn’t a normal panhandler, stating he’s non-confrontational and not aggressive, and that he doesn’t litter.
That didn’t seem to matter to the city, which says it issued eight bylaw tickets to Braun. In turn, Braun said he couldn’t afford to pay the tickets.
In the court of public opinion, it seemed the city was on the losing side.
“I think it’s a shame that the City of Penticton would stoop so low as to give a man a ticket because he’s hungry and he wants to eat,” Betty Mahar told Global News in January.