OLYMPIA – Rep. Timm Ormsby, the Spokane-area’s most senior Democrat in the Legislature, was charged with driving under the influence after his vehicle ran off the road and rolled last Saturday in Olympia.
Ormsby, 58, who represents central Spokane’s 3rd Legislative District and serves as the chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, was charged with DUI Monday in Thurston County District Court.
House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said no decision has been made yet about whether Ormsby will lose his chairmanship.
“We take this very seriously,” Sullivan said Tuesday afternoon. “We’ll have this conversation in our leadership team. It’s a group decision.”
House Democratic leadership was checking precedents to see how previous DUIs of committee chairman were handled, but Sullivan said that wasn’t very helpful.
“It’s been so infrequent that we haven’t had to apply a standard,” he said.
The citation filed with the court for Ormsby’s hearing says he had a blood alcohol content of at least .090 in an infrared scan and as high as .10 on the electrochemical scan of the Breathalyzer test. State law sets the limit for driving under the influence at .080.
The accident occurred at an intersection about 3 miles west of the city limits, near the area where he lives during the session. According to the Thurston County sheriff’s investigation reported by KXLY, Ormsby said he was distracted by a text message from his wife while turning onto the road, causing him to swerve and crash his Jeep.
The investigating deputy reported smelling a “heavy odor of alcohol” from the vehicle. Ormsby said he had two 16-ounce beers while working on the budget, KXLY reported. He failed field sobriety tests before agreeing to take the breath test. After failing the breath test, and being told his blood alcohol wouldn’t be that high from just two beers, he reportedly said he also had two 12-ounce beers in the afternoon before going to work.
“I made a very poor choice this weekend and want to apologize to my constituents, colleagues, friends and family,” Ormsby said in a statement released Tuesday. “I have faith in our justice system and will abide by whatever consequences I receive.
“Right now, I’m focused on my duties as a legislator: Drafting a state operating budget and serving the people I represent.”
The House and Senate will both propose supplemental operating budgets in the coming weeks after getting a state revenue forecast on Thursday.