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home : opinion : opinion June 26, 2022

6/11/2022 7:25:00 AM
Chairman Mitchem Should Not Resign
We don't always agree with Commissioner Mitchem's positions on issues, but we sincerely believe he votes based on what he believes is best for Lincoln County.  Much like us, he has been outspoken, and we think his statement is accurate when he says
We don't always agree with Commissioner Mitchem's positions on issues, but we sincerely believe he votes based on what he believes is best for Lincoln County.  Much like us, he has been outspoken, and we think his statement is accurate when he says "with me, you know where I stand."

Wayne Howard
Reporter


Lincoln County Sheriff's deputies responded Wednesday night (June 8th) to a call that someone had seen what appeared to be an intoxicated driver on Highway 27.  They followed the vehicle operated by Lincoln County Commission Chairman Carrol Mitchem, and when he swerved, the conducted a traffic stop.

EMS was called to make sure Mitchem wasn't having a blood sugar problem: he is diabetic, and low blood sugar levels can produce the same kind of symptoms as alcohol intoxication.  

Mitchem's blood alcohol level was 0.14, well above the 0.08 that North Carolina law says is sufficient to be charged with driving while impaired.

Sheriff Bill Beam said Mitchem was very cooperative with deputies.  After being charged, he was released on $1500 bond pending a court date of September 2nd.  

On Thursday (June 9th) Mitchem issued an apology through a County government news release:  

“I want to apologize for my actions that led up to the events of June 8th. I will make no attempt at excuses for my actions and I take responsibility for the decisions that were made by myself on that day. I am thankful that my actions did not harm others. I can only acknowledge my actions and accept full responsibility for those actions.

"I will continue to serve the people of Lincoln County as I have always done, with a transparent and honest approach.

“Also, I want to acknowledge the professionalism of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department and Lincoln County Emergency Services in handling this situation. I am appreciative of the work that these men and women perform each day to protect and serve Lincoln County and its citizens.”

Social media has been active with comments on the Lincoln Herald article and other reports about Mitchem's arrest.  Some have suggested that he will get special treatment because 'he's one of the good old boys.'  Some have called for him to resign from the Commission.  

Mitchem's arrest was his first, and it appears to be a Level 5 (the least serious of five levels) infraction.  For it to have been a higher level, certain factors would have had to be involved:

  • Driving with a BAC at or above 0.15%
  • Reckless or dangerous driving
  • Causing an accident
  • Two or more prior motor vehicle offense convictions
  • One or more prior DWI offense convictions
  • Fleeing the police
  • Speeding over 30 miles per hour above the speed limit
We don't believe that Mitchem will receive any special treatment.  He will likely enter a guilty plea and be sentenced.  The penalties for a Level 5 DWI in North Carolina include suspension of the driver’s license for up to one year. [Based on other similar cases, six months if more likely.] The driver may qualify for limited driving privileges to get to and from work, church, and other necessary places. The driver can also face a minimum of 24 hours in jail or 24 hours of community service (max sentence 120 days), up to $200 fine plus court costs, probation, and a mandatory substance abuse assessment and/or education course.

Carrol did something wrong: like many others have done, he got behind the wheel after consuming enough alcohol that he was legally intoxicated.  He deserves to pay the penalty for his infraction.  Yes, his mistake could have caused injury to someone else--but it did not.  

Hopefully, the arrest will serve as a 'wake up call' that will cause him to avoid this happening again.  We do not believe that he should resign from his position.  While we occasionally disagree with his opinions on political matters, we believe that he has served the people of Lincoln County well.  He is the longest serving member of the Lincoln County Commissioners and his years of service are the most we remember of any commissioner in history.  While we may disagree at times, we believe he has made decisions on the Commission based on an honest effort to do what he believes is best for Lincoln County.  

He has two more years on his current term in office.  If the people believe, come 2024, that his arrest for DWI means he should not be on the County Commission, they will have the chance to say so in that year's election if he decides to run again.  For now, we believe he should continue to serve and we believe he should remain as chairman at least until the new board is seated in early December.  


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