The Mesa council discusses the future of Councilman Ryan Winkle, who was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Winkle has requested a voluntary leave of absence from the council.
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Community watchdog reporter Jessica Boehm gives a wrap-up of Mesa Councilman Ryan Winkle’s first public comments since his arrest on suspicion of DUI on May 7, 2017, in Tempe. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
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Mesa Councilman Ryan Winkle speaks at a press conference on May 17, 2017, about his future on the council after he was arrested on suspicion of DUI.
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A video shows Mesa City Councilman Ryan Winkle and his wife, Ericka Varela, after they were pulled over by Tempe police May 7, 2017 on suspicion of DUI. The Tempe Police Department blurred this video before releasing it. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
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Mesa council discusses Councilman Ryan Winkle’s arrest in DUI
Reporter Jessica Boehm on Mesa councilman’s public comments
Mesa Councilman Ryan Winkle speaks after DUI arrest
Police body-camera video of Mesa Councilman Ryan Winkle’s DUI arrest
The morning after Mesa Councilman Ryan Winkle announced he will take a voluntary leave of absence to handle his recent arrest on suspicion of DUI, the Mesa City Council said it will hold off on disciplinary action against him — at least for now.
During a council meeting Thursday, Mesa Mayor John Giles encouraged patience as Winkle — who did not attend the meeting — works through the legal process.
“We need to avoid rushing to judgment in this situation. We need to respect one another’s due process,” Giles said. “I assure you the City Council takes this situation very seriously. We will do the right thing.”
Tempe police arrested Winkle around 1 a.m. on May 7, after an officer saw him nearly hit three pedestrians, according to the police report.
In the body-camera video of his arrest, Winkle told officers multiple times that he had not been drinking. Results from his blood-alcohol test are pending, and will likely play a large role in what, if any, legal ramifications he faces.
Winkle to voters: ‘I am very sorry’
At a news conference Wednesday, Winkle apologized to his “fellow Mesans” from “the core of my being,” and announced he would take a voluntary leave of absence with the intent of eventually returning to the dais.
“You, the voters of District 3, have bestowed a great honor upon me and I have disappointed you. To you I say directly: I am very sorry,” he said.
Winkle also said he enrolled in family counseling along with his wife, Ericka Varela. She was the sole passenger in the car when police stopped Winkle, and asked officers to let the couple go because of Winkle’s support for police officers, according to body camera footage.
At Thursday’s meeting, Giles said Winkle’s decision to suspend his council service was “the right thing for him to do” and will allow the rest of council to conduct city business “without distraction.”
The council agreed to excuse all of Winkle’s absences during his suspension.
Disciplinary action still possible
City Attorney Jim Smith told the council that Winkle’s voluntary suspension does not preclude the council from taking future disciplinary action.
Smith said if council decides to move forward with discipline down the road, it will be a two-step process. First, charges of council member misconduct will be presented in a council hearing. Then council will make its determination during a disciplinary hearing.
Council has many disciplinary actions at its disposal, including forfeiture of office, suspension and censure, according to the city code.
“Council is the judge of the fitness of its members. It is ultimately council that will make that determination,” Smith said.
‘I will work hard to make amends’
On Wednesday, Winkle said he intends to own up to the consequences of his choice, cooperate fully with Tempe police and resume his role on the council as soon as the case is adjudicated. He said he will serve the community “in a way that will truly make you proud.”
“With the help of my community, my family, my friends, my colleagues, I will work hard to make amends for my mistakes and become a better husband, a better leader, a better man,” he said.
Arizona has some of the toughest DUI laws in the U.S. Learn about the laws and how to steer clear of the penalties.
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