Deputy city manager will keep job, but face discipline after drunken driving arrest

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Portage deputy city manager
Portage’s deputy city manager Michael Carroll, 57, was arrested Aug. 27 on suspicion he was operating a vehicle while intoxicated. The independent investigation found he tried to use his position in the city to get special treatment from police.

PORTAGE, MI — The deputy city manager in Portage will keep his job but face discipline after police charged him with drunken driving.

Michael Carroll, 57, was arrested Sept. 27 on suspicion he was operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Carroll had a blood-alcohol level of over 0.17 percent, court records show. In Michigan, a motorist is presumed intoxicated at 0.08 percent.

The city conducted an independent investigation that recommended disciplinary action for Carrol and an employment requirement that he undergo counseling, the city said in a press release Wednesday, Oct. 21.

A 12-to-24-month last-chance employment agreement, recommended by the third-party review, will also be implemented.

“The residents we serve expect transparency, fairness and accountability from their city leaders, which is why I felt strongly this situation needed an independent, third-party review to bring all the facts to light, highlight potential areas of improvement and ultimately make us stronger and better as a city,” Portage City Manager Joe La Margo said in a statement.

La Margo said previously that Carroll would remain at work, continuing in his duties as deputy city manager, while the legal process unfolds and awaiting completion of the city’s independent review.

The independent investigation, completed by law firm Warner, Norcross and Judd, LLP, found the city and police followed all written policies, protocols and procedures. There was no evidence of bias or special treatment, according to the review, but the investigation did conclude that Carroll attempted to use his position in city government “improperly” during the traffic stop.

Carroll was traveling southbound in a northbound lane on South 12th Street when he nearly hit a police officer’s vehicle head-on at about 11 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27, according to the police report from Portage Public Safety.

The responding officer reported sluggish/slurred speech by Carroll and the smell of alcohol on his breath. The deputy city manager also stumbled, struggled to tell the officer where he lived and retrieve documents from his wallet, the officer said.

“Do you feel safe to be driving?” the officer can be heard asking Carroll in police bodycam video released by Portage Wednesday.

“I do,” Carroll said in response.

The deputy city manager said he did not feel buzzed. He told the officer he had four 12-ounce Miller Light beers about an hour before the traffic stop.

The video shows Carroll pulling his city of Portage employee ID out and showing it to the officer.

“There was no rational reason for Mr. Carroll to show the PPD officer his employee badge but for to curry favor with the officer,” the investigative report reads. “The more troubling finding is not that Mr. Carroll drove while drunk, but that a reasonable person viewing the video could conclude that Mr. Carroll sought to use his position as a deputy city manager to convince police to treat him more favorably than similarly situated drunk driving suspects.”

The investigation found that officers properly sought assistance from an outside agency, the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s office, to “make sure there was no appearance of bias or impropriety,” the report said.

Carroll refused to take a field sobriety test or provide a breath sample. A blood draw was completed at the hospital, the report said.

At the time of the arrest, Carroll was not in a city vehicle and the incident happened outside of business hours, La Margo said.

Carroll was arraigned on the charges Tuesday, Sept. 29, in Kalamazoo County District Court. He was released on a $500 bond, with conditions that include instruction to not use alcohol or illegal controlled substances.

Carroll’s license was suspended and he is scheduled for an alcohol use evaluation, the city manager said in his statement.

“I believe we need to hold our employees to the highest standards, especially those in positions of leadership,” La Margo said. “We will be following the recommendations of the independent investigation so we can move forward. This unfortunate incident will not distract us from our mission of ensuring Portage as a great place to live, raise a family, retire or run a small business.”

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