Oro Valley councilman Brendan Burns’ troubles have continued after being indicted on charges of first-degree burglary and disorderly conduct/domestic violence, both felonies that could carry prison time if he is convicted.
Burns allegedly committed the crimes after an argument with his estranged wife on May 20. However, the incident went unreported until May 29 when Burns’ wife called police related to another matter in which she believes Burns keyed her car.
According to police records, it was at that time Burns’ wife told officers that on May 20, Burns showed up at her house unannounced, violating the conditions of a court-issued restraining order that allows him visitation of the couples’ three children during certain days and times.
The two became involved in an argument, which escalated to Burns at one point brandishing a kitchen butcher knife and threatening to harm himself.
After learning of the incident, Oro Valley police subsequently forwarded the case information to the Pima County Attorney’s Office. On July 10, a grand jury found sufficient evidence to indict Burns on counts of burglary and disorderly conduct/domestic violence.
Records do not indicate specifically what Burns burglarized, citing only that he “committed burglary in the first degree of a residential structure” while in possession of a dangerous instrument.
Burns, whose next scheduled court date is Aug. 11, declined to comment on the incident, deferring to his lawyer, Joel Feinman.
“He is innocent until proven guilty, and he will be vindicated eventually,” said Feinman. Feinman declined to comment further on the case beyond what can be found in public record.
The case has been assigned to Judge Javier Chon-Lopez.
For Burns, the May incidents are the latest run-in with the law. In March, Burns was charged with four misdemeanors for violating his restraining order without violence.
He told police in that instance that he knew he had violated the order of protection and “wanted to go to jail.”
In 2013, officers were called to his home after Burns attempted suicide.
Mayor Satish Hiremath said politics aside, it is time for Burns to put his personal issues before his duty as a councilman.
“My prayers go out to him and his family, starting with the attempt to take his own life, and everything that followed, from the intentional violation of a restraining order, to the culmination of breaking and entering with a weapon, and everything in between,” he said. “This is a cry for help. He needs help, and it’s time someone help him. He has to put his children and wife first and get his life in control. If he thinks he’s obligated to serve the public because he’s an elected official, then he needs to make that his last priority. The priority should come with him and his kids.”
On whether he felt Burns should resign from office, Hiremath said, “That’s a choice he (Burns) and only he can make.”
Burns is currently serving his first-term on council. He has not vocalized whether he will choose to resign or remain in office. However, if convicted on the felony charges, ARS 38-921 dictates that his seat would be deemed vacant.
“In summary, a councilmember would lose his political office once convicted of felony charges,” stated Tobin Sidles, director of legal services for the Town of Oro Valley. “There must be a court order of a conviction before that process starts. As with any case, parties are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”
Another obstacle in Burns’ way is that of his current residence, which falls outside the Oro Valley town boundaries.
According to Sidles, a new law going into effect on July 24, states:
“If a member of the council, at any time during the member’s term of office, ceases to be a qualified elector of the city or town or ceases to reside in the city or town, the council seat held by the member is deemed vacant. The council seat shall be filled in the same manner as any vacancy on the council. On request, the county attorney for the county in which the city or town is located shall investigate and determine whether a vacancy exists pursuant to this subsection.”