Carpinteria City Councilman Joe Armendariz has been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after a collision on Highway 101 that left him with serious injuries.
According to a statement from the California Highway Patrol, officers responded last Friday night to a one-vehicle traffic collision on southbound Highway 101, just north of Padaro Lane.
Armendariz was driving alone in a 2001 gray Volvo, and as he approached a curve in the roadway reportedly veered into the center divider. His car then careened to the right, across both lanes and drove off the right shoulder, and sustained major front-end damage.
He was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital by ambulance, and placed under arrest for driving under the influence and was cited and released to the hospital for his injuries, according to CHP
CHP said there were no other vehicles involved, and Armendariz was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision. He sustained a compression fracture to his neck, a concussion and significant bruising. He was released from Cottage Hospital on Sunday.
“He’s pretty banged up,” according to Josh Lynn, Armendariz’s attorney.
Lynn said Armendariz was cooperative at the scene and that no test results on his blood alcohol level have been issued yet.
In addition to serving on the Carpinteria council, Armendariz has been an active public figure serving as an appointed member of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments and as the executive director of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association.
“He is a public figure, and he takes his role very seriously,” Lynn said. “He’s completely committed to the citizens of Carpinteria and Santa Barbara County.”
Armendariz was also arrested on suspicion of DUI in 2006. When asked how the councilman would respond to residents dubious that he can continue to effectively represent them, Lynn said Armendariz has been a model in public service.
“We hope he’ll also be a model for taking responsibility,” Lynn said. “In terms of his own life going forward, he’s making sure he’s eliminating alcohol from his life.”
“Hopefully a filing decision will be made within a week or two,” Carter said.
Armendariz also serves as chair of the board for Zona Seca, a nonprofit that operates a DUI education program. The group’s executive director, Frank Banales, said Wednesday that he hasn’t spoken with Armendariz yet and doesn’t know his plans.
Whether or not Armendariz resigns, the Board of Directors will decide whether to keep him on the board, and no action will be taken until the group’s next meeting in January, according to Banales.
“My personal view is that Joe has been on a road to recovery and in the recovery process some individuals experience relapse,” Banales said. “I am happy that he did not hurt anyone and wish him a quick recovery from the injuries he suffered in the accident.”
He said that Armendariz has made many positive contributions to the community.
“We should all be cautious not to pass judgment on him and abandon him because of this mistake,” Banales said. “Joe has put himself in a difficult situation, but I feel confident he will do the right thing to meet the challenge ahead.”