Yakima Deputy Mayor Apologizes for her DUI. Is That Enough?

voting box won't allow drunk driving politicianIn this age when everybody’s transgressions get revealed and repeated on social media, politicians and public servants have a hard time. No misstep escapes the public eye, least of all when it involves a drunk driving politician.

The Yakima County Deputy Mayor has apologized for her DUI arrest a few weeks ago. Carmen Mendez had rear-ended another car and was found to have a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit. That incident fueled plenty of social media talk, but her recent public apology stirred up even more.

In her statement, Mendez said that the public had the right to expect that public officials admit errors and deal with the consequences with integrity.

The question some ask is, what are the consequences of a DUI in while in public office? Should they include leaving that office?

DUI and Employment

Plenty of convicted drunk drivers lose their jobs, it must be noted. Just about anywhere a school or city bus driver cannot work with a drunk driving conviction on his or her record. Since DUIs involve suspension, taxi and delivery drivers are out of luck. A commercial driver’s license might no longer be a possibility. Even if an employer wants to retain a worker with a DUI record, the rise in insurance rates might force a dismissal.

There are also licensed professions in which a conviction could result in the inability to practice. This could include the medical and law professions.

Should Politicians Be Better?

If, as Carmen Mendez says, the public has a right to expect public officials to admit errors, one must ask: do they have the right to expect public officials not to make errors at all? Perhaps politicians should lead exemplary lives in order to inspire confidence in government.

No doubt a DUI shows bad judgement at the very least, and possibly alcohol problems and a disregard for the safety of others as well. None are good qualities for a public servant.

However, it’s possible to recover and join the ranks of responsible citizens. Mike Crapo continues as U.S. Senator from Idaho despite a 2013 DUI conviction. State legislatures include a number of politicians whose drunk driving has been overlooked by voters. If you add judges and other municipal officers, it’s a long list. Presumably most of these people have learned their lesson and no longer break the law.

A drunk driving politician is not the end of the world. It’s important, though, that the offender in question is not treated with kid gloves. Jail, fines, suspension, and ignition interlock should all be part of the package, whether you are a fry cook or a deputy mayor. And so should a second chance.