published Friday, September 21st, 2012

Dunlap vice mayor resigns following arrest for DUI

Longtime Dunlap, Tenn., Vice Mayor James "Dan" Barker has resigned that position while hanging onto his City Commission seat after his DUI arrest in Knoxville over Labor Day weekend.

Dunlap Mayor Dwain Land said Thursday that city commissioners have no authority to take further action in Barker's case.

Land said Barker, 73, gave an oral resignation from his vice mayor post and the commission accepted it, then appointed Commissioner Jeff Johnson vice mayor. He said Barker will retain his commission seat.

"I didn't see it coming," the mayor said of Barker's Sept. 2 arrest. "I honestly don't know what to say."

Barker, who faces charges of driving under the influence of an intoxicant, first offense, and violation of the implied consent law, could not be reached Thursday for comment. Barker's attorney, L. Thomas Austin, also could not be reached.

Barker faces an Oct. 16 date in Knox County DUI Court.

Land said Barker has been "an asset to the city" in his 21 years as an elected city official. According to election records, Barker, who still has 21/2 years remaining in his term, took a seat on the Board of Mayor and Commissioners in May 1991 and has held a seat ever since.

City Attorney Steve Greer agreed commissioners have no options to remove Barker from office. State statute that provides for an ouster process in an elected official's conviction do not apply to Barker because the charges are unrelated to his official position, Greer said.

Knoxville Police Department spokesman Darrell DeBusk said Barker was arrested Sept. 2 when he was found at 4:36 p.m. sitting in his Buick in a downtown Knoxville motel's parking garage with his headlights on and part of a 1.75-liter bottle of George Dickel whisky in the back seat. The bottle was about 20 percent full, DeBusk said.

Officers found Barker in the driver's seat with his feet outside the car and the keys on the floorboard, he said. Barker had been sick outside the car and "smelled strongly of alcoholic beverage," slurred his speech, was "extremely unsteady on his feet" and told the officers "I'm drunk," DeBusk said.

In the back of the patrol car Barker "repeatedly banged his head on the bars and glass divider of the back seat of the cruiser," DeBusk said.

According to authorities, an alert to watch for Barker's Buick had been issued about 1:45 p.m. that day after reports of a suspected drunken driver near Cedar Bluff and Peters roads.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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