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Winkle Removed From City Council For Violating Mesa Charter
Tempe police officers testified they saw Winkle almost run over three pedestrians while driving drunk in May. Tests showed his blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit.
Mesa Public Information Officer Randy Policar told the council that Winkle showed no remorse or guilt when confronted about the drunk driving arrest. Policar said Winkle called his arresting officer a liar and was thinking about challenging the DUI in court.
Instead Winkle pleaded guilty to an extreme DUI and served six days in jail. He’ll be on house arrest until Sept. 14.
At a disciplinary hearing Thursday, the Mesa council listened to testimony to decide whether or not Winkle had violated the city charter. He was accused of violating the code of ethics and displaying conduct demonstrating a lack of fitness for office.
Special counsel for Mesa Charles Wirken said Winkle’s conviction was a grave violation on its own, but the totality of the circumstances made it much worse.
"Those circumstances include lying repeatedly to the police and to deny responsibility for his conduct,” Wirken said.
But Winkle’s attorney Tim La Sota said his client was devastated over the incident and has been taking steps to make amends.
“He has been contrite. I think anyone who even suggests he doesn’t feel bad about this is terribly, terribly mistaken,” said La Sota.
La Sota recommended the council use a lesser sanction to discipline Winkle and suggested that voters punish him with a recall vote.
But the council found Winkle had violated the charter and unanimously voted to remove him from office.
Winkle said he was disappointed in the council’s decision but that he would keep working for the city.
"It’s sad, you know. I love Mesa. I heart Mesa," he said.
He said he doesn’t have any plans to seek future political office.
The Mesa council has 30 days to replace Winkle. The process could involve seeking resumes from citizens of district three. The council will announce plans to move forward next week.
Mesa released the following statement:
"Mesa City Council, at a special meeting this morning, determined that Councilmember Ryan Winkle will forfeit the office of City Council effective immediately as a result of his DUI conviction.
"The Mesa City Charter allows City Council to discipline its members in order to uphold the integrity of the office of Mesa City Councilmember. On May 7, Winkle was arrested for DUI and subsequently pled guilty to extreme DUI.
"After nearly three hours of testimony, based on all the evidence at the hearing, including the DUI arrest and conviction, Council voted unanimously that Winkle is no longer able to represent the residents of District 3 and the City of Mesa.
"The process to fill the vacancy in District 3 will be announced shortly."