Originally created 06/29/02

Councilman says he won't quit

North Augusta City Councilman and community activist Kent Sullivan says he has no immediate plans of resigning despite facing charges of drunken driving for the second time in 13 months.

Reached at his home, Mr. Sullivan said he had not made a decision about staying in office after his Tuesday arrest.

"I apologize to the citizens for what took place," he said. "I will have to deal with the consequences."

What the consequences will be is not clear.

In a city where council members routinely work well together with little or no infighting, Mr. Sullivan's didn't publicly comment on his first arrest last May.

This time, things are different.

Councilwoman Pat Carpenter said Mr. Sullivan's future was his decision that "he'll have to live with."

"If I was in those shoes I'd probably resign," she said.

Councilman Arthur Shealy said he doubted anyone would publicly call for Mr. Sullivan's resignation. No one wants to cast the first stone, he said.

"I pray that Kent gets his life straight. But for now the leadership of this community can't tolerate this egregious failure of character," Mr. Shealy said.

Council members Carolyn Baggot and Phillip Mottel said they were concerned for Mr. Sullivan but did not want to discuss his political future.

Councilman Ken McDowell would not comment.

According to police reports, a North Augusta Public Safety officer arrested Mr. Sullivan on drunken driving charges Tuesday at the intersection of Knox Avenue and Old Edgefield Road. His car had crashed into a telephone pole.

The councilman smelled of alcohol, and so did his car, where the police officer reported finding a plastic cup with alcohol in it. Mr. Sullivan had trouble standing and failed several sobriety tests, a police report states.

Just over a year ago, Mr. Sullivan was arrested and convicted on a similar charge. While he might have made amends in private, Mr. Sullivan has never apologized to the public for the first incident.

In that case, he was pulled over after being followed for more than a mile by a police cruiser with its lights and siren on. He told authorities he'd had a few beers and did not want to be arrested.

Now, Mr. Sullivan's future is in his hands.

Last year, the city of Aiken fired its parks and recreation director, Terry Rhinehart, after his two DUI arrests. Mr. Rhinehart was not an elected official.

By state law, members of city government can be removed only after being convicted of a crime of "moral turpitude." What that means has been debated.

If Mr. Sullivan does leave office early, his seat would be filled in a special election.

Mr. Sullivan, a program manager at Savannah River Site, also is a member of North Augusta 2000, a community service group made up of civic and business leaders.

"I don't think anybody can question my loyalty to North Augusta and my effort to do as good job as I can on council," he said. "I'm in this job because I care about the city."

Residents offered mixed response to the DUI charge against Mr. Sullivan. Those who condemned the action declined to be named.

"It doesn't make any difference to me," said resident Glennis Maness. "What people do is their business. I'd probably still vote for him."

Mr. Sullivan said he plans to attend Monday night's council meeting.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 279-6895 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.


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