Metropolitan King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn pleaded guilty Wednesday in Kittitas County to driving under the influence after driving his pickup into a ditch last month.
Dunn, 43, revealed his plea to The Seattle Times during an interview in which he acknowledged an alcohol-abuse problem for which he first sought treatment in 2011.
Dunn, who provided copies of police and court records to The Times, said he chose to accept responsibility for his actions and not pursue a deferred prosecution that likely would have been available to him as a first-time offender.
“What I did was wrong,” Dunn said, admitting he made a “dumb and unfortunate” decision to drink and drive while staying at his cabin in the Cle Elum area of Central Washington.
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“Public officials should be held to a higher standard,” Dunn added.
According to Dunn and a Kittitas County sheriff’s report, Dunn drank during the evening of Aug. 12, first at one restaurant where he had dinner and then at a second restaurant.
Dunn told The Times that he consumed four to five beers over about one hour.
While traveling alone the roughly seven miles to his cabin, Dunn drove his pickup into a ditch during a rainstorm, causing both side air bags to deploy and an automatic alert system to call 911, according to Dunn and the sheriff’s report.
After a brief conversation with a 911 dispatcher, Dunn said, a neighbor he did not know picked him up and drove him to the cabin, where he immediately went to sleep.
Deputies arrived about 1½ hours later, spoke to him and determined there was enough evidence to place him under arrest for driving under the influence.
One deputy wrote in a report he could “smell the obvious odor of intoxicants” coming from Dunn, whose eyes were “obviously bloodshot and watery.”
Dunn’s speech was “slow and slurred” and he was uneasy on his feet, held the railing on a stairwell and swayed while speaking, the deputy wrote.
When told he had crashed on a relatively straight stretch of road and alcohol appeared to be a factor, Dunn put his head down and said “that would be a fair statement,” a deputy wrote in the report.
At a sheriff’s station, Dunn refused to take a breath test to measure his blood alcohol content even when warned that could have consequences.
Dunn, who lives in Bellevue, was cited and released, with the deputy noting he had been “polite and cooperative.”
In pleading guilty, Dunn was sentenced to one day in jail, which he said he plans to serve next week in Kittitas County. He also was ordered to pay a fine of $940.50, $2,400 in probation costs and other fees.
Dunn is also subject to loss of his driver’s license for one year for refusing to take the breath test, but he has applied for a provisional license in which he would use an ignition-interlock device he said he has already had installed in his car.
The devices are connected to a vehicle’s ignition and fitted with a mouthpiece and a camera. The driver blows into the mouthpiece to start the vehicle, which won’t start if alcohol is detected.
Dunn appeared at The Times on Wednesday with his attorney, William Kirk.
Kirk said he advised Dunn he had grounds to challenge the charge or would be eligible for a deferred prosecution that, with alcohol treatment, would eventually lead to dismissal of the offense.
But Dunn repeatedly insisted he wanted to “take my medicine,” Kirk said.
In discussing the plea, Dunn said he had voluntarily completed an inpatient alcohol-treatment program in the Los Angeles area in 2011.
(The Times learned of the treatment just before the August 2013 primary race for his seat, but after investigating it chose not to publish the information because it was two years old, Dunn had not committed a crime and there was no evidence that alcohol was affecting his job.)
Dunn said that after his August arrest, he enrolled in a six-month, outpatient alcohol counseling program in Bellevue. He said he also immediately began attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and group counseling sessions in his council district.
He described being afflicted with a disease with genetic history in his family.
After his recent arrest, he said, he decided to be open about his problem and not worry who knows about it. He said that it has been “liberating” and that people have been supportive of his approach.
Dunn is the son of the late Jennifer Dunn, a Washington state congresswoman who became the first woman to serve on the House Republican leadership team.
A former federal prosecutor, Reagan Dunn was appointed to the Metropolitan King County Council in February 2005 to fill a vacancy. He was elected to the position again in 2005, 2009 and last year.
He ran unsuccessfully in 2012 as a Republican for state attorney general.
After losing that race, Dunn said, he drank for a few months and not again until the recent episode that involved three days of drinking.
Overall, he said, he had previously avoided drinking and driving.
Now, said Dunn, a separated father of two young children, “I’ve sworn off all alcohol.”