Three city candidates have alcohol convictions

Collins, DeSmet, Wanamaker say they have learned lessons from alcohol-related offenses

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2001

Three candidates for the Juneau Assembly have been convicted of alcohol-related violations in the past, and each says he has learned from the experience.

Empire checks of Juneau court records showed no other local criminal violations. Court records outside Juneau were not checked. Each candidate was asked if he or she had any criminal convictions.

Chuck Collins, a candidate for the areawide Assembly seat, entered a no contest plea in 1990 to a misdemeanor charge of driving with a blood-alcohol level in excess of 0.10, according to Juneau court records. His blood-alcohol level was 0.185, according to records, although he said he doesn't remember it being that high.

"I just remember they pulled me over and I flunked and that was that," he said. "I didn't drink for 10 years after getting that. I very, very seldom drink now."

The Assembly in August unanimously approved an ordinance that amended the traffic code to bring it into conformity with Alaska law and reduced the blood-alcohol limit from 0.10 to 0.08. Collins said he would have supported the change. He said he hopes people look at the positive things he's done, such as contributing thousands of dollars to youth programs in the community.

"If they're going to look at the bad, I hope they look at the good, too," he said. "If there's somebody that's perfect out there, I've never met them."

Clancy DeSmet, a candidate for the District 2 seat, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of underage possession of alcohol and using a fraudulent

identification card in 1994, according to court records. The offenses happened when he was 19.

"I paid for it with a fine and community service," he said. "I learned my lesson."

DeSmet said he would have supported a change in the blood alcohol limit from 0.10 to 0.08.

"I'm definitely concerned about alcohol-related problems in Juneau because it's a huge problem in Alaska," he said. "I don't think what happened to me should be held against my character."

Randy Wanamaker, also a candidate for the District 2 Assembly seat, said he was convicted of driving while intoxicated in 1973 in Seattle. He doesn't remember how high his blood-alcohol level was at the time and said the incident wouldn't influence the way he would vote on alcohol-related issues. He would have supported a change in the blood-alcohol level from 0.10 to 0.08 in Juneau to make it consistent with state law, he said.

"I learned my lesson and never drank again," he said.

How involved local government is in alcohol-related policy decisions varies by community, according Cindy Cashen, a volunteer with the Juneau chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Because Juneau has a MADD chapter, local government will be asked to take a closer look at enforcement, safety laws, prevention in the schools and driver's education in the future, especially as the Assembly enters budget discussions next year, she said.

"In Juneau's case, there will be more issues than in the past," she said.

Cashen said 80 percent of first-time offenders do not repeat alcohol-related violations. Cashen, who has a reckless endangerment conviction on her record, said neither she nor MADD hold the violations against the candidates.

"We all make mistakes," she said. "I don't think many of us have the right to point fingers."

Assembly candidates Tony Reiger, Jeannie Johnson, Jim Powell and Dixie Hood said they have no criminal convictions in their backgrounds and nothing turned up in a review of Juneau court records.

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