Officer disciplined for dropping DUI investigation

WEST BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP (AP) -- A local police officer declined to pursue a drunken driving case against the husband of a local official because he feared it could impact a public safety tax vote, according to documents released to news organizations.

Officer Robert Stephens gave the couple a ride home and has been suspended for five days, records show.

"It is an internal matter, but the officer did not follow proper rules and procedure -- he did not do his job -- and he has been disciplined," West Bloomfield Township Police Chief Michael Patton said.

Township Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste and her husband, Matt, were returning home a Kid Rock concert on Aug. 13 when Stephens stopped their car, believing the driver had rolled through a flashing red light.

Matt Ureste, who was driving, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.11, above Michigan's legal limit. He insists he was tired, not drunk. The officer drove them home and dropped the matter.

Stephens didn't want to "get tied up in a DWI arrest" because it was a busy shift, and he was "concerned that an arrest would compromise an upcoming millage vote," Lt. Tim Diamond said in a report.

The incident was a hot topic at a township board meeting Monday. Some people said Michele Ureste and her husband got special treatment and she should quit the township's highest elected position.

Valerie Morianti told board members to get their "egos in check or resign." One woman joked that she was tired: "Should I call 911 for my ride home?"

Matt Ureste read a statement, calling reports of the night a "damaging personal attack." His wife said he's been defamed.

"This is because of politics, and it's just sad," Michele Ureste said.

Published: Thu, Sep 1, 2011

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