Port Orchard Mayor Coppola: ‘Judge me by the job you elected me to do’
By JEFF RHODES
Port Orchard Independent Editor
May 18, 2010 · Updated 11:23 AM
Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola acted quickly to make sure Tuesday night’s city council meeting wasn’t a referendum on his arrest for driving under the influence the previous weekend.
Since citizen comments are normally the first order of business anyway, Coppola turned the gavel over to Mayor Pro Tem Rob Putannsuu for a few moments at the outset of the meeting and made a statement from the floor as a private citizen.
“While I realize that it’s sometimes difficult to separate being a public figure and elected official from being a private citizen,” Coppola said, “this was an incident that impacted me as a private citizen, and not as the mayor.
“As a person who sets high standards for myself,” he continued, “and routinely expects to perform at an exceptional level, relaxing those standards was a serious error in judgment on my part.”
Coppola added, “The simple fact is that the state has set a standard for what it considers acceptable, and I exceeded that limit. I accept total responsibility for my actions and will fully accept the consequences of those actions. I do not expect any special treatment and will comply with all the legal requirements — several of which I have already completed — without question.”
Copolla also said he wanted to clear up a misconception created by media coverage of the arrest.
“On that evening,” he said, “I did attend the Rotary Crab Feed and Auction. However, this incident took place several hours after that event ended and should in no way reflect negatively upon Rotary, or the monumental amount of good it does in our community — and around the world. I want to be very clear about that.”
The mayor said he had received numerous expressions of support in the preceding week.
“I would also like to thank the more than 250 individuals,” he said, “including law enforcement officers, elected officials, friends and ordinary citizens — many of whom I’d never met before — who have taken time from their busy lives to contact me personally by phone, e-mail, cards, letters, online media, and in person, with words of encouragement.”
Coppola called his arrest “unquestionably ... the single most difficult and humiliating experience of my entire life.
“I am asking the residents of our city, as well as my family, to please accept my humblest of apologies for the embarrassment my actions have caused,” he said. “As mayor, I ask you not to judge me by the mistake I have made as a private citizen, but by the job you elected me to do.”
Following Coppola’s statement, only one other mention was made of the arrest during a meeting that lasted barely 45 minutes. In that case, Port Orchard resident Larry Barthe rose during the public comment period to express support for Coppola.
“I was surprised,” Council-woman Carolyn Powers said afterwards. “I expected more people to attend, and I thought someone would say something critical.”
“I thought for sure there would be some controversy,” echoed Councilman Jerry Childs.
“Maybe everyone just wants to move on,” Coppola said. “I know I do.”