Enquirer Herald

Councilman Winstead apologizes for DUI

A York County Councilman who was arrested Friday on a drunken driving charge apologized publicly Monday for any pain or "embarrassment" he's caused his family, his district, the council and God.

Meanwhile, York County Republicans are discussing what position to take regarding their councilman's fall.

Councilman Eric Winstead of York shared a brief statement before the Council's meeting Monday night in York.

Winstead, a chaplain for Hospice Care of South Carolina, also apologized to "my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. ... I've always said that any good you see in me is God. Any bad, that's all me."

Winstead said he's grateful no one was physically hurt by his actions and he won't comment further on it publicly.

"It's time for me to get back to the business of doing the work for the county that the York County constituents elected me to do."

No other council members made any comment about Winstead's arrest Friday on charges of a first-offense DUI and having an open container.

Early Friday, a York County Sheriff's deputy pulled Winstead over after noticing his car was swerving and had crossed the center line several times, according to an incident report.

Winstead told the deputy he had had a couple of beers and a bottle of Crown Royal that the deputy found empty in the passenger seat. Winstead's blood alcohol level was a .11, .03 over the legal limit.

After he was released Friday afternoon, Winstead said the loss of his father in January had triggered the urge to drink a few times this year, and he hadn't had any alcohol for 16 years before his father's death.

The York County Republican Party's executive committee will discuss at its January meeting the party's stance on Winstead's DUI charge and whether he should continue serving his district, party chairman Glenn McCall said Monday.

But already, "strong voices" are arguing whether the party should or shouldn't push for the first-term councilman's resignation.'

DeAnn Harris, party president for a precinct in York, said Monday afternoon that she believes stepping down is the right thing to do. As a born-again Christian, she views Winstead's situation not from a political viewpoint, but from a spiritual one.

For Harris, whether she can trust Winstead in a leadership role right now is a question because there's something wrong that needs to be dealt with, she said.It's not about admitting failure, she said: "It's about being humble. Stepping back from a leadership position is a sign of humility."

Kevin Smith, a Fort Mill Republican who pushed early for a former York County Council member's resignation after he was arrested for DUI in 2008, was undecided Monday about what he thinks Winstead should do.

Smith said he'd be looking for Winstead's contrition and humility, which he said former Councilman Paul Lindemann lacked.Last week, Lindemann was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and more than $300,000 in restitution for grossly inflating his income on a home mortgage application.

Lindemann's sentencing provided some closure for voters, and now they have to deal with Winstead, Smith said."The citizens are just worn out from this stuff," he said. "There are so many things to address that are affecting people out of work. ... We just don't need to be addressing a councilman out there drinking and driving, and at this point, I don't know if his nose is up at the law."

Winstead's record - or any official's success in office - shouldn't be used as a reason to stay on, Smith said.It's bad enough when citizens who "don't carry public trust" drink and drive, Smith said, but in Winstead's case, it's "an elected official and pastor to boot."

Smith said the precinct leaders in Winstead's district need to come together, assess the situation and report to the party. Then, the party needs to make a decision about whether it will continue to support Winstead. Smith said the GOP is the "party of accountability" and needs to take responsibility for the officials it helps win elections.