By Ralph Echtinaw
Gratiot County Drain Commissioner Bernie Barnes, 48, was arraigned Tuesday in District Court for one count of operating while intoxicated (third offense).
Barnes was stopped by Gratiot County Sheriff’s Deputy Brenden Harless at 8:13 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5, in Washington Township. He was driving his personal vehicle; not his county car. He had one passenger.
Sheriff Mike Morris said Barnes was cooperative. He was taken to the Gratiot County Jail but soon posted bond and was released.
His car was left (with permission) in a private driveway where he was pulled over. (Barnes lives three townships away in Sumner.)
Contacted by email, Barnes had this to say: “I have been without a project manager since April due to the job market and salary the county can offer. I made the poor decision to drive to inspect a county drain in my personal truck in Elba Township, after I had a few beers earlier that day. I also was taking my dogs for a ride because my new little 11-week-old puppy is content sleeping in my truck like a little child. I met a county cop sitting at an intersection on a back road and he continued to follow me into Washington Township. He claims I did not properly yield at a railroad crossing and made a traffic stop. I failed the breathalyzer and was arrested. Now I have to face the consequences of my actions and move forward. I hope everyone learns from my mistakes!”
The result of a blood test to determine the alcohol content in Barnes’ system is pending.
Morris wouldn’t say what drew the attention of Deputy Harless to Barnes’ vehicle. “The reason for the stop is part of the investigation, and being this is an open complaint I don’t want to comment on that,” Morris said via email.
Barnes’ next court date is a probable cause hearing on Sept. 15.
His last arrest for drunk driving was by State Police Trooper Zachary Darter of the Lakeview post on Dec. 7, 2019.
For that Barnes got 13 days in jail and one year probation.
Barnes has been Gratiot County drain commissioner since January 2017. In 2020 he was reelected while running unopposed in the primary and general elections.