December 21, 2014

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Sheffield councilwoman faces charges in January accident

Carolyn White

Carolyn White

SHEFFIELD — Despite three incidents involving drunken or dangerous driving accusations in less than four years, Councilwoman Carolyn White said Wednesday that she doesn’t have a drinking problem.

White, who took office in 2008, said her latest legal problems won’t affect her constituents.

“I’ve served them with honor and distinction, and I am going to continue to do that,” she said.

In 2011, White pleaded no contest — no contest charges are considered convictions by the courts — to a drunken driving charge. Westlake police had charged her with drunken driving, weaving and driving on the wrong side of the road for a 2010 stop. The other charges were dropped.

In December, White was cited on East 28th Street in Lorain for drunken driving by an Ohio Highway Patrol trooper, according to her attorney Anthony Baker.

Baker said White wasn’t drunk and in April pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of failure to control or reckless driving.

White’s license was under suspension when she was accused of hitting a bus stop enclosure on Hoag Drive in Sheffield and leaving the scene Jan. 2. A witness said a driver was driving too fast for conditions and lost control while turning before hitting the enclosure and leaving the scene, according to a police accident report.

White was charged with driving while under a drunken driving suspension, leaving the scene of an accident and making a false statement. Jerrell White, her 26-year-old son, was charged with obstructing a criminal investigation, making a false statement and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Details of the incident are unclear. Police in other Lorain County departments routinely release narrative descriptions of arrests in their reports, but Police Chief Larry Bliss said he wouldn’t release the narrative because the case hasn’t been adjudicated.

Bliss said he’s aware White is an elected official, “but she has also has the right to a fair trial.”

To avoid a conflict of interest, Mayor John Hunter said the case is being handled by Avon Lake Municipal Court and Avon Lake Prosecutor John Reulbach Jr. Hunter said cases involving Sheffield employees or elected officials are always referred to other courts to avoid conflicts.

Hunter said White didn’t receive special treatment, “except since she’s a councilperson in the village, we would refer it to Avon Lake.”

Hunter said only elected officials convicted of felonies cannot serve. White’s charges are misdemeanors.

White, whose term expires in 2015, said she plans to serve it out.

She has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court Tuesday. She said wouldn’t discuss details of the case until it is adjudicated.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.