Wessington Springs board members not talking publicly about Superintendent Lance Witte’s latest DUIWESSINGTON SPRINGS — School board members in Wessington Springs are avoiding public comment on Superintendent Lance Witte, who was recently arrested on his second drunken driving charge in less than a year.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
WESSINGTON SPRINGS — School board members in Wessington Springs are avoiding public comment on Superintendent Lance Witte, who was recently arrested on his second drunken driving charge in less than a year.
The board has been advised by its attorney, Rodney Freeman, of Huron, to avoid speaking about the subject until the entire school board meets. The next scheduled meeting is Monday evening at the Wessington Springs Elementary School.
“It’s not a scheduled item,” Tate Von Eye, board president, said of Witte’s employment status.
“I don’t know what will come up,” he added when asked if it will be discussed.
The district is scheduled to convene the new school year Aug. 22.
Witte was arrested Friday in Hanson County on suspicion of driving under the influence, just three days after being convicted of driving with a license that was revoked because of a 2010 DUI conviction. He was granted a suspended imposition of sentence for the revoked license charge, meaning the conviction would be removed from his record if he remained law-abiding for 60 days and paid a $500 fine. He paid the fine.
Jerauld County State’s Attorney Casey Bridgman, who prosecuted the revoked license case, was not available for comment Wednesday on the impact the new DUI charge might have on the suspended imposition.
Roger DeGroot, president of the South Dakota School Superintendents Association, called the situation “disappointing.”
“We, as educators, work with youth all the time to make the right decision about drugs and alcohol, and having them be able to do the right thing,” DeGroot said. “Whenever a public official breaks that trust, I think that’s disappointing.”
DeGroot has known Witte for about four or five years. He described Witte as “a very nice man who obviously has a serious problem.”
After Witte’s DUI arrest and conviction in 2010, Witte e-mailed all the superintendents in the association to apologize for his actions, DeGroot said. Witte also apologized to his colleagues for his most recent conviction last week of driving with a revoked license.
“We really felt it was heartfelt and that he had closed the chapter in that part of his life,” DeGroot said. “I feel bad for him, because he has some real personal issues.”
There is a code of ethics for professional school administrators in South Dakota. Among other things, it directs them to enforce and obey local, state and national rules and laws in the performance of duty.
According to Hanson County court documents, a Mitchell dispatcher informed South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Mark Nelson of an erratic driver Friday on Interstate 90, and Nelson intercepted the vehicle at 8:44 p.m. near the Alexandria I-90 exit.
Nelson reported the white 2006 Chevy Suburban crossed the white shoulder line. Nelson stopped the vehicle, which he confirmed belonged to Witte.
“At the vehicle, I could detect the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from inside the vehicle,” Nelson wrote in his report.
Witte performed some sobriety tests, but refused to blow correctly into the breathalyzer. Nelson arrested Witte for DUI after performing the tests.
Witte underwent a blood test at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital in Mitchell and was booked at the Davison County Jail. At his booking, Witte’s blood-alcohol content was listed as 0.157. The legal driving limit is 0.08.
Witte’s attorney refused comment Wednesday, and Witte did not return The Daily Republic’s phone calls.Witte is out of the Davison County Jail on a $500 bond. One of the conditions of the bond is that Witte contact the Hanson County Sheriff’s Office about wearing an alcohol-monitoring bracelet as part of the 24/7 Sobriety program.
He is set to appear in Hanson County court later this month.
This most recent arrest was Witte’s fifth for DUI. Prior to the recent two arrests, the previous three were in the early 1990s.