By DENISE A. RAYMO
---- — MALONE — An impaired-driving charge was dropped against Franklin County Legislator Guy “Tim” Smith on Tuesday due to insufficient evidence.
But the Fort Covington Democrat did plead guilty to a reduced charge of failure to obey a traffic-control device and paid a $150 fine and $92 surcharge.
He had been arrested Aug. 15 on charges of driving while his ability was impaired by alcohol and failure to remain left of a pavement maker.
Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie’s office, acting as special prosecutor in the case, sent a letter offering the plea agreement, which dismissed the DWAI count and lowered the pavement-marker violation, which carries a three-point penalty on a driver’s license, to the traffic-device violation, which carries a two-point penalty, said Malone Town Justice Michael Lamitie.
Wylie’s letter said there was “insufficient evidence” to support the DWAI charge, so, “in the interest of justice,” it was dismissed.
Smith, 71, of Fort Covington paid a $150 fine and a $92 surcharge.
He refused to comment and referred all questions to his attorney, Kevin Nichols.
“I think it’s clear that my client did not violate DWAI,” Nichols said, adding that the special prosecutor determined there was “clearly no evidence to support the charge.
“My client was wrongfully arrested for DWAI,” he said.
Smith was charged on Aug. 15 after a County Sheriff’s Department deputy allegedly saw him driving erratically on Route 37 near the Westville/Malone town line.
Deputy Luke Cromp pulled Smith over, and with the assistance of State Police, conducted a breathalyzer test that allegedly indicated a blood-alcohol level of .055. A second test administered at the State Police barracks about an hour later reportedly showed a BAC of .05.
The arrest prompted a firestorm of controversy, with some legislators accusing the Sheriff’s Department of targeting Smith because of raises that were budgeted in 2011 by the legislators but then revoked.
Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill denied his deputy was targeting Smith, but he was threatened with possible staff reductions and budget cuts as legislators prepared the 2014 county budget.
The sheriff said Cromp and seven more of his deputies have policing powers as fully trained law-enforcement officers who have an obligation to make an arrest if they believe a crime or violation has been committed.
At the same time budget discussions are going on, the county announced that it had offered a new union contract to sheriff’s deputies and County Jail staff, but it has not been ratified by the members.
The offer included a 2-percent raise retroactive to Aug. 21, a 2-percent raise in 2014 and a 2.5-percent raise in 2015.
Union officials have so far refused to comment on the contract offer, referring all questions to the United Public Service Employees Union representatives, who were also not talking.
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