News and Tribune

March 8, 2013

NASH: Commissioners should use DUI to set an example

By MATTHEW NASH
Local columnist

— Far too often over the last few years, a local elected official or someone who is considered a public servant has been involved with an incident involving drinking and driving. 

When it happens to someone who has been elected to a position, there isn’t a lot that can be done about it until the next election. But if it is someone who has been appointed to a position, they could easily be replaced. We just need to elect people that are willing to do the right thing, without politics getting involved.

Last month, Rick Fox, who serves as the attorney for the Floyd County Commissioners and several other county boards, was arrested after leaving a Clarksville restaurant. His blood alcohol content was reported at 0.15, nearly twice the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle. His lawyer said he made a “bad decision” to drive.  

From the sound of the trooper’s report, I think it was lucky that Mr. Fox was pulled over when he was. Driving an automobile, in that state of impairment, there was a chance that he wouldn’t have made it to his destination safely. It was far better that Mr. Fox spent that one night in the Clark County Jail than having to spend time in the hospital or someplace worse. Had he caused an accident that affected someone else’s life it would have been a “bad decision” that he would have had to live with the rest of his life. 

Immediately following Mr. Fox’s arrest, the Floyd County Commissioners had no comment.  At their single meeting since the incident recently, Steve Bush, president of the Board of Commissioners, announced that in light of recent events their attorney would be taking an indefinite leave of absence. 

I believed at the time this was the right decision. At the time, I also believed that indefinite meant more than two weeks. Does the punishment fit the crime? Does two weeks off qualify as punishment at all?

 Mr. Fox at a meeting Tuesday apologized and took full responsibility for his actions. He returned to his position as if nothing ever happened and will continue his work for Floyd County without even the proverbial slap on the wrist. 

He missed one commissioners’ meeting, and I am sure he will miss fewer paychecks at taxpayers’ expense. The commissioners have thumbed their noses at the residents of Floyd County and have made a mockery out of our legal system.

There are a number of other attorneys that live and work in Floyd County that could do the job, who have demonstrated better decision making ability than Mr. Fox. 

Far too often we have looked the other way when someone has been arrested, and this time we can do something about it. I believe that it is time that Floyd County went in another direction. Maybe the commissioners can pick someone else to represent the interests of our county.

Mr. Bush, as president of the commissioners, should do the right thing and immediately replace Mr. Fox as attorney. Bush is also a member of the New Albany Police Department and has announced his intention to run for sheriff of Floyd County in 2014. 

What does it say when someone turns their head when the law is broken? Does it just take a simple apology and being benched for a couple weeks to get back on track?

Over the last few years, Southern Indiana officials has had more than their fair share of incidents involving alcohol. Not every one of these incidents have resulted in an arrest, but they all involved very poor decision making and reflect poorly on everyone involved. Certainly, we should start making examples out of these people. Would ordinary citizens be given the same considerations as these “leaders?”

I have no problem with someone going out, having a good time and enjoying an adult beverage from time to time. I have been known to do it myself on occasion. What you must understand that there is certain responsibility that goes along with the consumption of alcohol.  

 If you insist on drinking until you reach the level of intoxication, you must also have an obligation to arrange for your safe ride home. Take a bus, call a cab or call a friend to come and pick you up. Maybe they are put out a little bit by doing it, but I am sure that they would prefer coming out in the middle of the night than reading about a tragedy in the newspaper the next day.

If we keep looking the other way when public officials get in trouble, then these problems will continue to happen until a real tragedy occurs. Without consequences for their actions, why should elected leaders change their behavior at all?

Getting pulled over for driving under the influence is an embarrassing situation, but being embarrassed is not punishment enough for the crime.

 

— Matthew Nash can be reached at dmatthewnash@gmail.com