'I made a mistake': Salmon apologizes after DUI arrest
By Peter Hirschfeld
Vermont Press Bureau | November 15,2009
State Auditor Thomas Salmon
MONTPELIER – State Auditor Thomas M. Salmon apologized publicly to his friends, colleagues and voters Saturday for his drunken-driving arrest late Friday.
He is to appear in court in Barre in early December.
En route to his home in St. Johnsbury after a dinner celebration at a Montpelier restaurant, Salmon said, he failed to signal while making a turn onto Towne Hill Road in Montpelier. A Vermont State Police trooper pulled Salmon over around 10:30 p.m. and, according to a news release, determined he had been drinking.
Salmon said his blood alcohol level registered 0.086 percent on the Breathalyzer test – slightly above Vermont's legal limit of 0.08. Police did not give the results of the blood-alcohol test in the news release, and the arresting officer could not be reached Saturday.
"One of the difficulties in life is none of us are exempt from bad mistakes," Salmon said by phone Saturday. "I screwed up and I'm going to deal with it, just as I've been preaching to other people in Vermont to pick themselves up when they're dealing with adversity."
Despite the arrest, Salmon spoke as scheduled at the Vermont Republican Party's annual convention at the Montpelier Elks Club on Saturday. In his opening remarks, he alluded to the arrest.
"Some of you may have read the blogs already today," Salmon said, referencing postings on Vermont media Web sites that had broken the news of his arrest. "Let's just say there are good days and there are bad days."
The upbeat auditor didn't dwell on the subject.
"And it was a very good day when I became a Vermont Republican," Salmon said. "And it's been humbling to join you and be welcomed by you."
Salmon was re-elected as a Democrat in 2008 for a second term in the auditor's office. In September, citing his increasing dismay with the Democratic platform, Salmon became a Republican. His new party colleagues – already aware of his arrest the night before – offered him an enthusiastic welcome Saturday. Gov. James Douglas gave the accountant and Naval reservist at least two shout-outs in his brief speech to party loyalists.
"We picked up a state office without the benefit of an election and we're proud of that, too," Douglas said. "I'm glad to be standing with Tom and (Lt. Gov.) Brian (Dubie) and so many elected legislators. The problem is, we don't have enough of them."
Later, Douglas said Salmon had made a mistake, but that he is "absolutely" still a valued member of the Republican Party.
"It's disappointing. Everyone has to follow the laws and take responsibility, and Tom made a mistake and I know he'll accept responsibility for it," Douglas said. "But it doesn't detract from his outstanding record of public service."
Outgoing Republican Party Chairman Rob Roper had a similar view.
"He's a stand-up guy, and I'm sure he's willing to take full responsibility for it," Roper said. "We'll see where it goes from there."
On the night of the arrest, Salmon said, he had been drinking red wine at a dinner he'd organized for three colleagues in the auditor's office and their spouses. The dinner was to celebrate the recent promotions and pay raises earned by the employees.
"This was a very special occasion and I made a mistake," Salmon said. "We were with friends, celebrating, and there are bottles of wine and it was a long event. I don't want to minimize what I did, but you don't have a lot of room for error."
Salmon departed the dinner party in his 2008 Honda Civic and was later pulled over by state police trooper Brandon Doll. Doll's short news release said that "in speaking with Salmon it was determined that he had been drinking, and Salmon admitted to having a few drinks over the course of the evening."
Salmon would not say Saturday at which Montpelier restaurant he'd been drinking.
"I compliment the state police trooper – a young trooper – who followed all the protocols, even down to the handcuffs," he said.
Salmon said it was his first criminal arrest, though Salmon has faced civil suits in California for failing to pay back about $30,000 in loans.
"The best thing anybody can do, including myself, is to get up, dust yourself off and go forward and handle it like a man," Salmon said. "My mother used to say to me – and this is what I'd say to young people – it's not what happens to you. It's how you handle it. And I'm determined to show people that I'm handling this adversity. I'm identifying and adjusting and moving forward."
Salmon said he does not have an alcohol problem.
"I have too much discipline from my military background for this to be a pervasive situation," he said.