NORTH TONAWANDA – Board of Elections Deputy Commissioner Michael J. Carney, who was pulled over for drunken driving last month, pleaded guilty Thursday in North Tonawanda City Court to a reduced charge of driving while ability impaired.
Carney, of North Tonawanda, was pulled over by police on East Robinson Street the night of April 18 and found with a blood alcohol level just over the legal level of 0.08 percent.
He accepted a plea when he appeared before North Tonawanda City Judge William R. Lewis, who noted that Carney had no prior convictions in the past 10 years and there was no accident involved. Carney was sentenced to pay a $200 fine and $250 surcharge, and his license was suspended for 90 days, but he will be allowed to seek a conditional license. He must also participate in the Drinking and Driving Program and attend a Victim Impact Panel class.
Mary Ann Casamento, the Republican commissioner on the Niagara County Board of Elections, said Carney was suspended as the Republican deputy commissioner and was put on unpaid administrative leave following the charge, and he remains suspended.
Carney said after court that he believes it is a 30-day suspension. However, Peter Lopes, the county director of human resources, said there was no time limit on suspensions.
“It is necessary to evaluate the case. If it takes longer than 30 days, then the suspension can be extended. This is a pending matter,” Lopes said.
Carney did not comment in court but afterward said, “It’s an unfortunate incident, and I am apologizing for it.” In a written statement he submitted to the media, he admitted that he has had a problem with alcohol.
“The night I was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, I made the terrible choice to drink at a local establishment and get behind the wheel of my car. I am profoundly sorry for my actions,” he wrote. “The fact is 19 years ago I faced the reality that I have a problem with alcohol and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. I did not have a drink for more than 15 years and attended meetings regularly. Under the misguided notion that I would be able to control my drinking, I began to reintroduce alcohol into my life.”
Carney stated that what happened was a “grievous error” and he planned to use the time during his leave of absence to enter alcohol rehabilitation.
“I am sorry to my wife and family for the embarrassment this causes and to the community for my poor judgment and decision,” he wrote.
Carney’s attorney, Michael J. Ingham, told The Buffalo News after court, “He was a real man about it. It was a very marginal reading and he didn’t ask for any special treatment. He didn’t make any demands to be treated any different than anyone else.”
Carney served for three years on the North Tonawanda School Board beginning in 2008, stepped down and then lost in a bid to regain a seat this past year.
In 2009, he was appointed a clerk for the Board of Elections and was appointed deputy commissioner in 2010.