Fallout continues from the arrest of Traverse City Mayor Michael Estes Monday evening after a police officer pulled him over on suspicion of drunk driving. Estes, who was on his way home from a city commission candidate forum at Lars Hockstad Auditorium, was spotted crossing the center line and driving in the designated bicycle lane on Eighth Street near Woodmere Avenue.
The arresting officer reported Estes "smelled of intoxicants" and had "watery/glassy eyes." After failing several field sobriety tests, the mayor subsequently registered a .120 BAC in a breathalyzer test. He was arrested for OWI (operating while intoxicated) and lodged at Grand Traverse County jail, where he posted bail and was released after 3 a.m. A first-time OWI offense is a misdemeanor penalty that can result in up to 93 days in jail time and/or various court fines, community service hours and rehabilitative programs.
In a statement to The Ticker yesterday, Estes said: "Last night I was arrested for drunk driving. This is a huge embarrassment to my family and to the office of mayor. I deeply apologize to everyone involved. I will need to take a few days to decide what to do next. I cannot legally pull out of the election at this point. That option is not available. So whatever comes next will take some thought." When asked if his drinking was an isolated or recurring incident, and whether the mayor intended to pursue substance-related counseling, Estes replied: "This is a complicated issue. The legal part is just one aspect. It's something I need to talk through with my wife. But no one forced me to do anything. It's my fault, and I have to live with the consequences."
Traverse City Clerk Benjamin Marentette noted the deadline for candidate withdrawal from the upcoming November 5 election was August 16. Candidates therefore cannot be removed from the ballot unless deceased or disqualified (a misdemeanor does not disqualify a candidate from running). City commission candidate John Reid filed yesterday to run as an eligible write-in candidate for mayor; however, at press time Marentette was consulting with the city attorney on whether such a filing was legal.
Should Estes decide to resign from office, either in his current term or if reelected, the city commission could appoint a replacement for either the duration of his term or until a special election could be held. However, the mayor has of yet given no indication that he intends to resign from office.