By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
ORONOGO, Mo. —
Members of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving say they plan to call for the resignation of the Oronogo mayor after he was charged with driving while intoxicated.
They also are criticizing the director of the local ambulance service who recently was cited on the same charge, although they are not asking for him to quit his job.
The president of the Newton and Jasper County Chapter of MADD along with other members of the group said this week they want Oronogo Mayor Robert Pearish, 60, to step down.
Pearish on May 8 was stopped by Carterville police and then charged with driving while intoxicated and speeding. According to a report provided by the Jasper County Circuit Court, his blood-alcohol content was 0.097, exceeding the 0.08 blood-alcohol percentage limit in Missouri.
On Monday night, several members of the local MADD chapter came to the Oronogo City Council meeting and stationed themselves outside City Hall “to be seen,” said Greg Freeman, whose wife, Kerry, is the president of the chapter.
While the group was not on the agenda and none of its members spoke during the meeting, Kerry Freeman said afterward that they are carefully monitoring the mayor’s case and plan to call for the mayor’s resignation at the next meeting.
“I think at least he should step down from public office,” Kerry Freeman said.
Attempts to reach Pearish through messages left at City Hall since Monday and by going to his home have been unsuccessful.
“I think if someone in a city office receives a DWI, he should step down from his position until the charges are dropped or settled,” Kerry Freeman said. “I don’t believe a public official should stay in office.”
MADD member Treva Gordon, of Alba, is vice president of the chapter and maintains its hot line. She said the group has taken “a lot” of phone calls from Oronogo residents who are unhappy with the mayor.
When asked if Pearish should resign, Oronogo Councilman Bob Russell said: “Let me answer the question this way ... I think that anyone in the public eye regardless of what position they hold should set a higher standard than Mr. John Public out on the street. That’s my belief. They’re representing the people and I think they should set a higher standard.”
Other council members either declined to comment or could not be reached.
Members of the MADD chapter also are critical of Jason Smith, 36, of Oronogo, who was charged with a DWI recently.
Smith, the director of Joplin METS ambulance service and the former fire chief of the Oronogo Fire Protection District, was pulled over at a sobriety checkpoint by the Missouri State Highway Patrol early on the morning of June 30. According to a probable cause statement, Smith’s blood-alcohol content was 0.132.
According to that statement, Smith acknowledged he had consumed three beers at his residence earlier in the day, a vodka-tonic at Club 609, and a vodka-tonic and two beers at J.B.’s Piano Bar.
Greg and Kerry Freeman were at the checkpoint, which is not an uncommon practice for MADD members, they said.
“I think they ought to take note of their responsibilities,” Greg Freeman said. “They need to represent the law enforcement and public safety better. ... It’s very poor judgment for someone in (his) position to do this without regard to public safety.”
In 2006, the Freeman’s daughter, Christina Freeman, 18, of Joplin, was killed in a car crash with a drunken driver behind the wheel.
The Freemans, however, noting that Smith works for a private employer, stopped short of asking for his resignation.
Smith also could not be reached for comment this week.
Capt. Juan Villanueva, commanding officer of the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Troop D in Springfield, said the sobriety checkpoint conducted from 10 p.m. Saturday, June 29, through 3 a.m. Sunday, June 30, at Missouri Route 43 and Gum Road saw 457 drivers. Of those, four were arrested for driving while intoxicated.