On Saturday, Oct. 29, an RCMP road block on Agate Bay Road stopped a male driver of a pickup truck in a roadside check. The driver was polite and cooperative, and so were the RCMP.
However, the stop resulted in police issuing an immediate roadside prohibition to the driver who registered a fail on a roadside screening device.
The driver was District of Barriere’s Mayor Mike Fennell.
“I made a terrible decision to drive after having a few beer,” Fennell told the Star/Journal on Wednesday, “And I am now facing the consequences of that decision.”
Fennell says although he will not be charged for the incident, his vehicle has been impounded for 30 days, there is a 90 day suspension on his driving license, he has to participate in a responsible driver program before he can get his vehicle back, and he has to register for the ignition interlock program.
He will also be hit hard in the pocketbook for over $4,060; $880 for mandatory participation in the responsible driver program, $1,730 for the interlock program, a fine of $500 to Motor Vehicles, a $700 vehicle impoundment fee, and a $250 driver’s license reinstatement fee.
In B.C., a vehicle driven by someone with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .05 can be taken off the road by police and impounded for three to 30 days. The length of impoundment depends on the driver’s BAC, and whether they’ve been caught before.
For Fennell this was a first time offence, but he says it will definitely be the last.
“Unless you have gone through this you cannot imagine how bad and awful I feel right now,” said Fennell, “I know I made a terrible decision, and I regret it immensely; now I have to stand up and face the people I have hurt.”
Fennell says he has spent the past two days apologizing to his family and friends, and he must now apologize to the citizens of Barriere for his actions.
“I accept full responsibility for my bad judgement,” said Fennell, “Believe me, I’ve learned my lesson; but I will be paying emotionally for this terrible decision for a long time to come.”
Asked if he will be stepping back from the upcoming election as incumbent mayor, Fennell replied, “No, I will not withdraw. I believe I have a duty to continue my campaign for the residents of Barriere. The democratic process must proceed in this election and the voters must continue to have a choice. Both the chief electoral officer, and a legal advisor have confirmed that this roadside prohibition does not effect my abilities to carry out my duties as mayor.”
Fennell says over the next two weeks he will knock on every door in the municipality “to personally apologize to the citizens for my bad judgement, and to explain my platform as Mayor”.
“I cannot say how sorry I am that I have let the people of Barriere down. I have worked hard for the District as mayor,” said Fennell with considerable emotion, “If the people are satisfied with my last four years in office, and if they want me to continue to represent them as mayor, I will work even harder to continue to improve our community and its future.”
Voters will now have to ask themselves if a one-time roadside prohibition has affected Fennell’s ability to lead? Or is it an emotionally hard lesson learned for the incumbent Mayor, and can voters put that behind them?