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Carpinteria Council May Move to Rebuke Armendariz Over Alleged DUI

City steps up pressure to force out councilman, who will be arraigned Wednesday for Dec. 2 crash and arrest

The city of Carpinteria has prepared a resolution that, if passed by the City Council, would strip Councilman Joe Armendariz of his committee assignments, publicly reprimand him for his conduct and ask him to resign.

Carpinteria City Councilman Joe Armendariz has vowed to serve out the rest of his term.
Carpinteria City Councilman Joe Armendariz has vowed to serve out the rest of his term. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)

Armendariz was charged with driving under the influence after he crashed his vehicle Dec. 2 on Highway 101 near Padaro Lane. Test results showed his blood-alcohol level was 0.18 at the time of the wreck, more than twice the legal limit. It was Armendariz’s second arrest on suspicion of DUI since he’s been on the council.

After the December crash, Armendariz was hospitalized for two days with a compression fracture to his neck, a concussion and significant bruising. He is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

Armendariz could not be reached for comment for this story but has said he intends to serve out the rest of his term, which ends this year, and will not seek re-election.

“I’m here because you put me here, and I intend to stay here as long as I believe that I can be effective,” he said at a December council meeting a little more than a week after the crash.

Council colleagues and members of the public have since called on him to resign, but the City Council has no authority to remove Armendariz, who is often the lone dissenting vote on flashpoint council issues. At the Jan. 9 meeting, council members asked City Manager Dave Durflinger to identify other options for action.

“The community is very upset about this,” Councilman Brad Stein said. “I think that it’s something that we as a body, as a city, take pride in — the integrity that we’re supposed to protect from this dais to the community — and I don’t think it’s being served right now.”

The only way to remove Armendariz from his seat would be through a recall election since, as an elected official, he can only be ousted by the voters. The process is similar to a ballot initiative, with a petition and signatures required to be considered for an election.

Stein, Mayor Al Clark and city staff members have prepared a resolution that, if passed Monday, would adopt a Code of Ethics; issue a censure — or official reprimand — in response to Armendariz’s conduct; revoke his committee assignments; limit his activities as a representative of the city; prohibit him from driving for city business; and ask him to resign.

“On Dec. 2, 2011, Council member Armendariz by his own admission was driving while under the influence of alcohol, was arrested, and has been charged with under the influence of alcohol, this being the second time that Council member Armendariz has been charged with this crime while serving as a City Council member,” the resolution states.

The resolution adds that the Armendariz has “been intoxicated at public events in the county where other elected officials and members of the public witnessed this conduct.”

Armendariz currently serves on the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, is an alternate member of the California Association of Joint Powers Authorities, and is a member of the School District and Fire Board Joint Committee and Ad Hoc Transportation Committee.

If he steps down, Clark would take his place on SBCAG and the other positions would be reassigned or left vacant until after the Nov. 6 election.

Many members of the public have called for Armendariz’s resignation.

Carpinteria resident Vera Bensen says Armendariz has not resigned because he “doesn’t feel the responsibility.”

“He didn’t feel it when he got in the car when he was drunk and he doesn’t feel it now when he should be responsible to the city of Carpinteria,” she said. “So, I don’t know if we can get him to resign, but that’s what he should do on his own.”

The Dec. 2 DUI incident wasn’t the first for Armendariz, who says he has struggled with alcoholism for 25 years. In 2006, he was convicted of driving under the influence, also after crashing his vehicle.

“It has been the most difficult struggle that I have ever experienced,” he said in December. “I have a lot of power in certain areas of my life; I have no power when it comes to alcohol.”

Monday’s council meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall, 5775 Carpinteria Ave.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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