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Mayor Coppola Apologizes to Port Orchard for DUI Arrest

May 7th, 2010 by Chris Henry

Update May 12: Lary Coppola, speaking as a private citizen at the Port Orchard City Council meeting on Tuesday, took the opportunity “to address the situation on May 2.” Once again he apologized to the city and to his family. His statement and a comment of support from Larry DeBarthe are within the first five minutes of the city’s video recording of the meeting. The video is posted on the city’s website.

7:45 p.m. : I received an e-mail from Lary Coppola, who believes I misquoted him in the interview with Dori Monson.

I have revised this post with deletions (struck through) and additions (italics) to indicate where the mayor believes he was misquoted.

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola, who was arrested early Sunday morning on suspicion of drunken driving, appeared on KIRO radio Friday afternoon and apologized to his constituents.

Host Dori Monson, who was harshly critical of Coppola earlier this week, mispronounced his name … saying it as in Francis Ford etc.* But he gave the mayor props for appearing on the show. Apparently state education chief Randy Dorn, who recently found himself in a similar pickle, turned down a similar invitation from Monson.

Coppola, asked to describe the events that let to his arrest, said he was driving home from a “charity event” (that would be the Port Orchard Rotary Crab Feed & Auction Saturday at McCormick Woods Clubhouse. About 100 yards from his home, Coppola said, he saw someone “run out of the shadows and jump in a car.” Suspicious, Coppola followed the car into “a driveway” (near The Rockwell apartments, Coppola’s home) and called 911. The other driver also called 911 to complain that Coppola was blocking his vehicle, according to a police report.

Coppola said that when law enforcement arrived, “They said, ‘Have you been drinking?’ and I said, ‘Well, yeah.’”

Monson asked if, given the mayor’s .12 blood alcohol level, he should have been driving a car.

“I should not have,” Coppola said. “There’s no two ways about it. It was an egregiousgrievous error in judgment.”

Does he have a problem with alcohol? Monson asked.

“No. I drink rarely and very little when I do,” Coppola said.

“There was a time in my life I was a pretty heavy drinker in between marriages,” Coppola said, adding that over the past 20 years he has consumed alcohol “very little.” “I do not drink every day,” he said.

Monson asked what it’s like to be a public figure in this situation.

“It’s personally and professionally humiliating beyond belief,” Coppola said. “This has got to be the worst experience I’ve ever had.”

“It’s been hard on my family,” Coppola acknowledged, telling Monson that a pending adoption of his 6-year-year-old grandson, Bryce, may be in jeopardy as a result of the incident.

Coppola and his wife Dee have custody of Bryce and have raised the boy since he was a toddler. Coppola said Bryce is aware that something is wrong. “Papa, did you do something bad?” Bryce was related to have said.

What about calls for his resignation? Monson asked. Should public officials be held to a higher standard?

“I don’t really know how to answer that question,” said Coppola, who added he’s received scores of e-mails, phone calls and even cards of support since his arrest. “(They say) you’re doing a really good job as mayor. Don’t let the naysayers talk you out of it staying.”

So has the mayor entertained the notion of stepping down?

“It’s not even on the table,” said Coppola. “You can count on ‘no.’ Not only ‘no,’ but ‘hell no.”

To the question, “Would you drink and drive again?” Coppola said, “Not only ‘no,’ but ‘hell no.’”

Finally, “Do you have a drinking problem?” Monson asked, noting that Coppola’s admission of a bout with heavy drinking earlier in his life raised a red flag.

Coppola deflected Monson’s suggestion, talking about how difficult the divorce was. “It changes your perspective on about things,” he said.

He repeated that being Bryce’s dad gives him an incentive to stay sober. “I don’t want to set that kind of example for him,” “My wife doesn’t drink at all, and we don’t keep liquor in the house because I don’t want to set that kind of example for Bryce.” Coppola said.

Coppola also had a message for the locals. “I would like to apologize to the city of Port Orchard for embarrassing our city,” he said. “And I’d like to apologize to my family.”

So Dori, about that name, it’s Lary, with one “r,” like Cary Bozeman. (I don’t know what this is all about; it’s just something with our public officials here in Kitsap.) And it’s “Cop” — as in “Oh, no, the cops are here.” — “po” — as in “podunk,” the image we’re trying to shed — and “la” as in do-re-mi-etc. Thanks for your interest in our town, and you’re welcome.

Chris Henry, South Kitsap/ government reporter

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