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UAS vice chancellor, Sealaska board member convicted of drunken driving

Posted: May 9, 2013 - 3:19pm  |  Updated: May 10, 2013 - 12:09am

A vice chancellor at University of Alaska Southeast and member of the Sealaska Board of Directors was convicted of drunken driving on Tuesday.

Joseph G. Nelson, 42, pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and was sentenced to serve 33 days in jail with 30 days suspended, meaning three days to serve.

Juneau District Court Judge Keith Levy also placed Nelson on probation for 18 months, imposed a $3,000 fine with $1,500 suspended, revoked his license for 90 days and ordered him complete counseling at the Juneau Alcohol Safety Action Program.

Police cited Nelson for the misdemeanor offense at 1:55 a.m. on Feb. 9 at the intersection of 12th Street and Glacier Avenue, according to the police citation.

The arresting officer wrote in the citation that he conducted a traffic stop a vehicle that was “swerving, accelerating quickly and speeding.”

During the stop, the officer said he observed Nelson smelled like alcohol and had watery eyes and that Nelson admitted he had consumed three drinks, the citation reads. The officer wrote Nelson failed a field sobriety test, and a sample of his breath showed .091 alcohol concentration, according to the citation. Alaska’s legal limit for a driver’s BAC is 0.08 percent.

He was charged with one count of driving under the influence, which is a class ‘A’ misdemeanor offense that can be punishable by up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Nelson was not available to comment Tuesday, and his attorney Kevin Higgins declined to comment, saying it was a “pretty cut and dry” case.

Nelson is the UAS Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, according to the school’s website. UAS Human Resources Director Kirk McAllister did not disclose whether the university has or will be taking any action against Nelson, saying it is UAS policy not to discuss personnel matters.

“He has taken full responsibility for this, and it is our expectation that he will be treated appropriately by the court system,” McAllister wrote in an email exchange Wednesday. “It is also our understanding that the incident that led to his arrest and subsequent conviction happened during his off hours and was unrelated to his work at UAS. As a matter of university policy, we do not discuss personnel issues, so there will be no further information on this matter.”

The vice president of communications for Sealaska, the regional Native corporation for Southeast Alaska, did not comment when reached Wednesday.

Nelson is also a member of the Alaska Bar Association, according to his bio on the UAS website.

He was once considered for Juneau’s vacant Senate seat in 2009. The Empire reported at the time that Nelson had already been rejected when then-governor Sarah Palin tried to appoint Nelson and two other candidates to the same seat.

The triple appointment caused drama in the Capitol as Democrats criticized it as invalid and improper, and Nelson ended up requesting the governor’s office to take his name out of the running.

Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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