Local homeless man Paul Braun has been going through Penticton’s courthouse over eight unpaid tickets for panhandling at the Main Street breezeway. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

Lawyer concerned city pre-writing tickets for Penticton street person

A city lawyer fired back, saying whether ticket written before or during is irrelevant to court case

The lawyer for Paul Braun is concerned the city has been pre-writing tickets for the Penticton street person, which he claims would have “troubling” implications.

Paul Varga, representing Paul Braun in his fight against city hall, alleges that the city might be pre-writing tickets before taking them down to Braun for panhandling, based on a photo in which he describes a bylaw officer “looming over” Braun, holding a blue piece of paper that he said looked “remarkably like” the bylaw tickets Braun has been provided in other instances.

“The photo does not include any images of Mr. Braun actually actively panhandling. He’s just merely sitting,” Varga said. “Why would you have a piece of paper already in your hand? I want to see what’s on that piece of paper and whether it was prewritten or not, because it was not given to Mr. Braun on that date, and there is no connected file with that.”

Related: Lawyer takes aim at City of Penticton’s ‘war on the homeless’

Braun has been charged with eight counts of contravention of the City of Penticton’s Good Neighbour Bylaw, which prohibits panhandling within 10 metres of a breezeway, such as the one at Braun’s regular spot in the 200 block of Main Street. Braun faces a collective $880 in tickets from the city.

“We’ve got to make sure if these tickets are being drawn up, they’re based on actual information and not merely ‘we think something’s happening because somebody phoned us that Paul’s there again, and then we just assumed different factors,’” Varga said.

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City lawyer Troy DeSouza fired back, saying it is irrelevant when the ticket is written, as Braun is visible in his spot from down the street.

“Whether they choose to, after having seen him, write a ticket and then go meet with him, it’s a block away, right, or whether they choose to write the ticket at the time, it’s inconsequential as to whether he’s breaching the bylaw,” DeSouza said.

“Ultimately the court is only concern is whether the bylaw is being breached. So if Mr. Varga has any insinuation to make with respect to ‘well they’re writing a ticket first,’ it’s because they can see in clear daylight, sitting at the same spot, which he does on a very regular basis.”

Related: City of Penticton taking homeless man to court

DeSouza added the city has just handed Braun eight tickets when there is the potential for far more.

“If you really could say how many times of evidence they could have done (write a ticket), you’re talking 40 or 50, right, but the city just doesn’t do that. They’re very prudent with how they exercise their enforcement,” he said.

DeSouza said the city has offered Braun, through Varga, a “sweetheart” deal, to pay $100 and abide by an order not to be on that property.

Related: Homeless Penticton man receives multiple tickets

“If people want to make a stand based on how much media attention they’re going to get on an issue, versus how you want to resolve this on a law that’s applicable to every resident or traveller of Penticton, then you could turn it into a bit of a publicity tour,” he said.

“But if you want to just resolve this practically and make it as applicable to the same standard that is applicable to all other Penticton community residents, you comply with the bylaw.”

Varga said he wants to see an accounting of the city’s bylaw tickets, each of which are given a sort of serial number so city hall can keep track of all ticket, and make sure that the city doesn’t have tickets that have been pre-written and tossed.

Varga said he would be seeking that disclosure before entering a plea, with the next hearing on the issue set for Jan. 25. Defence will be making an application for the disclosure, but said the city appears resistant at this point. He also said he has issues with bylaw officers coming down to speak with Braun when he isn’t panhandling, suggesting it could infringe on his right to congregate.

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“Why are they bothering to spend time talking to him and asking him to move along if that’s what they’re doing, because that’s what he says,” Varga said. “Have we suddenly suspended the right to congregate in the streets peacefully?”



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