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Councilor Said No to DWI Questions

By Jim Ludwick and T.J. Wilham
Journal Staff Writer
    Albuquerque City Councilor Tina Cummins denied during two election campaigns that she had ever been accused of drunken driving.
    In fact, she was arrested on drunken-driving charges near Old Town in 1990.
    A statement filed by a police officer at the time said Cummins failed a field sobriety tests and stated: "I'm drunk."
    The report alleged her blood-alcohol level was 0.20 percent, twice the presumed level of intoxication at the time.
    The charges were ultimately dismissed, so the arrest did not lead to a drunken-driving conviction.
    Cummins said Wednesday she thought the Journal was out of line when it asked on candidate questionnaires if she had ever been charged with or convicted of drunken driving. She said she simply answered no, rather than challenging the propriety of the question.
    "I've never liked that question. That's not the basis of America. It's not whether you've been accused, but whether you're found guilty," Cummins said Wednesday.
    "I didn't want to get into a philosophical debate with the editorial board about whether it was right to ask the question," she said.
    The question was asked when Cummins ran for the City Council in 2001. It came up again last year, when she unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for Public Regulation Commission.
    Journal questionnaires routinely ask candidates if they have faced drunken-driving allegations.
    "I answered the question half right," she said. "I got pulled over. That's true. It was thrown out."
    Cummins said the traffic episode "was a long time ago."
    "Nothing came of it," she said.
    According to police records, Cummins was stopped on Oct. 20, 1990, after an officer saw her driving her 1984 Ford at a "high rate" of speed, try to make a left turn and spin 360 degrees. The vehicle stalled and Cummins restarted it and drove off.
    The officer wrote that, when he stopped Cummins, he detected a strong odor of alcohol on her breath and that she had bloodshot and watery eyes. Cummins then failed three field sobriety tests.
    She was taken into custody and booked into the detention center Downtown. She later bonded out.
    Reports say her keys and vehicle were left with her ex-boyfriend at her request.
    Her car was stopped in front of her ex-boyfriend's house.
    The case was eventually dismissed in Metropolitan Court, but records explaining why were not available. The judge was Charles Barnhart.
    Cummins said Thursday she didn't remember why the case was dismissed.
    Cummins said the only thing she recalled from the court proceedings was that she waited a very long time and looked "fetching" in her Bolero jacket and tulip skirt in pink and red.
    "I wore a great outfit ... I think I would look stupid in it now" she said. "I remember more about my outfit. I know that's really lame ... I haven't thought about it since it happened to be honest."
    Cummins is facing re-election this year. She has picked up petitions from the City Clerk's Office as the first step toward getting on the ballot.
    The Journal inquired into the drunken-driving allegations against her after receiving documents relating to the traffic stop.
    Journal election questionnaires sent to candidates inquire about a number of issues including tax liens, bankruptcies, criminal records and DWI. They also seek candidate responses on various policy issues.
    Last year's questionnaire for the PRC race asked: "Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state?" Cummins answered: "No."
    In 2001, the Journal's questionnaire for City Council candidates asked: "Have you ever been arrested? Have you ever been charged with or convicted of a felony or driving while intoxicated?" Cummins said "no."
    Republican Joe Thompson dropped out of the same PRC race after being arrested for DWI. He pleaded guilty to the charge.