By Michael Regan
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NORTH TONAWANDA — A former North Tonawanda Board of Education member and a current employee of the Niagara County Board of Elections who was arrested Thursday night and charged with driving while intoxicated has been put on unpaid administrative leave from the county.
Michael P. Carney, 51, of Bennett Street, was pulled over for speeding at 10:41 p.m. on East Robinson Street, where he submitted to a breathalyzer test and was allegedly found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent, according to police reports, which is just over the legal limit. He was released on his own recognizance and arraigned in North Tonawanda City Court on Friday morning.
Carney served for three years on the school board beginning in 2008, stepped down, then lost in a close race last year after seeking to regain a seat. He’s also held several positions with the county, with the most recent stint beginning in April 2009 as a clerk with the board of elections. In February 2010 he was appointed as deputy commissioner.
Mary Ann Casamento, the Republican commissioner for the Niagara County Board of Election, said she suspended the North Tonawanda resident upon hearing the news from Carney on Friday.
“Mike Carney called me this morning and informed me that he was arrested last evening for DWI,” she said. “Immediately I put him on unpaid administrative leave until further notice.”
Casamento said the matter is now in the hand of the county’s human resource department.
Peter Lopes, the county director of human resources, said he could discuss little regarding Carney’s arrest, citing it a personnel issue, though he said the next step will be determined by he and Casamento.
“Human resources works with the department head to evaluate the situation,” he said. “I really can’t provide any more specifics.”
Carney expressed remorsein a statement released on Friday in which he said he made a “terrible choice to drink at a local establishment and get behind the wheel of my car.”
“I am profoundly sorry for my actions,” he said in the statement. “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.”
He added: “The sad fact is, I was never in control. Last night is a grievous error and a time to acknowledge I need help. Today I was placed on an unpaid leave of absence from my position at the Niagara County Board of Elections. I am using this time 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.”
Carney will return to North Tonawanda City Court on Thursday. Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.