Harford council president apologizes after DUI arrest

Wagner, who lost seat in primary, speaks out at his final meeting

October 18, 2006|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,SUN REPORTER

The night after his drunken-driving arrest, Harford County Council President Robert S. Wagner opened his last meeting as a councilman by expressing regret for the incident and emphasizing successes during his term.

"From the depths of my heart and soul, I regret the events" of Monday, said Wagner, reading from a handwritten statement at last night's session as his family looked on from the second row of the council chambers. He declined to comment further.

Sheriff's deputies arrested Wagner, 49, about 11:30 a.m. Monday after he admitted drinking vodka and operating his vehicle that morning. A witness had reported seeing him fall out of his truck and hit the pavement. Last night a cut could be seen above the 16-year council member's right eye.

Yesterday, the Harford County Sheriff's Office released traffic reports stating that Wagner's blood-alcohol content was 0.21 percent, more than twice the legal limit of .08 percent. That level of intoxication can cause disorientation and blackouts.

According to the report, Wagner told deputies that he had been drinking about 8:30 a.m. and then got into his truck and drove for about an hour, ending up at Catered Living of Bel Air, an assisted-living facility where his mother is a resident. Deputies responding to the scene found him sitting in his truck, which was pulled across two parking spots.

Wagner was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, authorities said.

Last night marked Wagner's last council meeting after losing a primary race in September, and he said he hoped "everyone focuses on the good works this council has done and accomplished over the last four years together."

A Republican, he was first elected in 1990 and became council president in 2002.

Wagner faced two challengers in the primary, one of whom questioned his loyalty to the party and sent literature to voters that accused him of personally contributing to development by selling his family farm. Wagner finished second to Billy Boniface, and barely ahead of the third candidate in the race, Aaron Kazi.

He was singled out for praise by many colleagues last night, thanking him for his years of service and breadth of knowledge.

"I would hope [Wagner] leaves with good feelings, knowing that he's done a good job for 16 years and represented Harford County well," Councilwoman Veronica L. "Roni" Chenowith, a Republican who has served on the council since 1994, said in an interview Monday.

The seven-member County Council is guaranteed to have at least four new faces when it reconvenes in December. In addition to Wagner's departure, council members Lance C. Miller and Cecelia M. Stepp are not seeking re-election, and Councilman Robert G. Cassilly was deployed to Iraq earlier this year and could not run.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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