When interviewing with Southold Democrats earlier this year, town trustee candidate Steve Brautigam was honest and up-front about his drunk driving arrest in Mattituck two years ago, and in nominating the Laurel resident to run in November the party does not see the arrest as a political liability or a negative reflection on his ability to serve, town Democratic chairman Art Tillman said this week.
“Somebody screws up and gets a DWI once what are we going to do, punish him for the rest of his life?” the chairman said. “The question is how does his résumé compare to his opponents. With his qualifications, I’m happy to have him as a candidate.”
The party asked Mr. Brautigam to join this year’s ticket.
During a 20-year career with the Village of Greenport, Mr. Brautigam held several administrative positions, including clerk/treasurer and head of utilities, He now works on Fire Island as administrator of the Village of Ocean Beach.
He was the Southampton Town comptroller at the time he was pulled over by Southold Police on a Saturday night in March 2009 for failing to stay in his lane on Sound Avenue in Mattituck. Police said his blood alcohol level was 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal limit in New York.
He was charged with aggravated DWI, a misdemeanor, held overnight and released following his arrangement the next morning.
“I’m not going to hide from this,” he told The Southampton Press. “I have no excuse. I made a huge mistake and it’s an embarrassment to my wife and children. And I assure you, this will never happen again.”
In August 2010 Mr. Brautigam pleased guilty to aggravated DWI in Southold Justice Court. Judge Rudolph Bruer revoked his license for six months, ordered him to enter a substance abuse rehabilitation program and fined him $1,000. He faced a potential sentence of up to a year in jail and a one-year license revocation.
Mr. Brautigam said he switched voter enrollment from Republican to Democrat six months ago, prior to his discussions on running for office.
“The first thing they asked was have I done anything to embarrass the party,” he said. He said he mentioned the DWI and how he was ashamed of it.
“They were taken aback by it,” Mr. Brautigam said. “But they continued to question me and look at my career.”
He said given the press accounts at the time of his arrest, it was unrealistic to think the party wouldn’t be aware.
“I went through the court system,” he said. “It was a mistake and I paid the price. I learned my lesson and it will never happen again. I don’t think it takes away from 25 years of municipal knowledge and experience, and it’s behind me.”
Town Republican leader Denis Noncarrow declined to comment.