Newly elected Hapeville official faces felony charge in Gwinnett case

A newly elected Hapeville city official is facing a felony charge for allegedly stealing more than $100,000 from a Gwinnett County man.

A Gwinnett Grand jury indicted Ruth Braley Barr on November 4, one day after the Hapeville financial planner and accountant was elected to the Hapeville city council. Barr, 61, was charged with one count of theft by taking for an incident that occurred in December 2013. No trial date has been set.

Barr’s attorney said Friday his client will fight the charge.

“She absolutely denies this was a theft,” Duluth attorney Steve Adkins told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Ms. Barr is planning on fighting these charges aggressively.” Adkins said Barr, 61, will turn herself in soon.

“This is largely a family dispute. There’s a lot more to it than what (the accusers) told the police,” Adkins said. “This started because of the death of a family member which was the impetus for this dispute. She’s never been arrested for any kind of felony charge. She’s really quite surprised.”

Adkins declined to give specifics in the case but according to the South Fulton Neighbor News, Gwinnett resident David Bass gave Barr $109,409.49 in December 2013 to open an individual retirement account for him. Bass told police several months passed and he had no evidence that Barr had set up the account so he and his wife met with Barr several times at which point Barr agreed to repay the money.

Efforts to reach the Bass family were unsuccessful Friday. Adkins said Barr and the Bass family are related to each other.

Meanwhile Hapeville officials issued a statement November 6 regarding the matter: “The city is aware of the legal situation surrounding alderman-elect Ruth Barr. The city has referred this matter to the city attorney for further review and evaluation. We believe this issue is best resolved by allowing the legal process to work as all citizens have a right to due process under the law.”

City attorney Steve Fincher declined to comment beyond the city’s statement.

Unless Barr is convicted or the governor suspends her from office, she would be able to serve her term as alderman which begins in January. Barr previously served on the Hapeville City Council in the early 2000’s.

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