Friday, Dec. 04

WILLIAMSTOWN -- A local police sergeant has received a one-day suspension from the department after he pleaded guilty by waiver on Nov. 20 in Bennington (Vt.) District Court to negligent motor vehicle operation. Scott E. McGowan, 24, of North Adams, will serve his suspension on Monday and a letter of reprimand has been placed in his personnel file, Police Chief Kyle Johnson said Thursday.

"I don't find him innocent or guilty of the charge," Johnson said. "He put himself in a situation he should not have been in."

McGowan was fined $500 and had his right to drive in Vermont suspended, according to documents in the Bennington court.

According to Vermont State Police, McGowan drove through two stop signs on Monument Avenue in Bennington on Sunday, Nov. 8, about 1:18 a.m., and his car was observed by a trooper changing speeds and weaving within its lane.

Vermont Trooper Robert Zink said in an affidavit that he pulled the vehicle over on Route 7 near the Armstrong farm, and McGowan provided him with his vehicle registration and a Williamstown Police Department identification card.

According to the affidavit, McGowan said he was going home and had been in Bennington driving around. McGowan said he had consumed one beer, Zink stated.

McGowan was given a breathalyzer test at 3:06 a.m., and his blood alcohol level was registered at 0.065 percent, under Vermont's legal limit of 0.08 percent, according to the affidavit.

State's Attorney Erica Marthage said Wednesday that in cases in which people are pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving but the tests come back as under the legal limit, they are charged with negligent operation of a motor vehicle and offered a civil suspension and a fine if they plead guilty.

Marthage said she wasn't aware McGowan was a police officer until after she processed the charge. She said public officials should not be treated with more lenience than the general population but neither should they be prosecuted more harshly.

Chief Johnson said he believed he took appropriate action in reprimanding McGowan and suspending him without pay for one day.

"I felt, given these circumstances, his conduct was unbecoming to an officer," he said. "He let me know as soon as it happened. He admitted he was at fault and had no one to blame but himself.

"It happened in the past, and now we move forward. I don't expect a repeat."